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Green Energy Panic: German Government Fears Voter Anger About Electricity Price Explosion

Is the green energy transition crumbling? Within the German government doubts are emerging about its timetable. Electricity must remain affordable, warn key ministers. The government fears the price explosion – and punishment by voters.

Peter Altmaier wants to clarify something. Not that anyone thinks he intends to question the big picture about the green energy transition, the central project of this government, which has now become his own personal project. Asked about the green energy transition at the Bonn climate change dialogue on Tuesday, the Federal Environment Minister talks about “challenging targets” which he still wants to achieve – “with challenging measures.” But there should be an honest assessment, Altmaier says. Nothing more.

But also nothing less.

Fully committed to a very honest appraisal, Altmaier had denounced past mistakes in an interview over the weekend and doubted specific goals of the green energy transition – for example to bring one million electric cars onto the roads by 2020, or to reduce power consumption by ten percent during the same period. “If we still want to achieve this somehow, then we need huge efforts,” the Christian Democrat politician warned.

Whether he agreed or not, Economics Minister and Deputy Chancellor Philipp Roesler joined the debate on Tuesday. “Is the whole time table crumbling?” asked the BILD tabloid newspaper. “The timeline and the goals for the green energy transition still stand,” replied the leader of the Free Democrats (FDP). “But we need re-adjustments if jobs and competitiveness are threatened.”

“Still want to achieve this somehow …” – “… re-adjustments if …” – We are not there yet. None of the targets are officially under threat to be dropped or postponed. But the government keeps a backdoor open, and, with their conditions, ministers Altmaier and Roesler are preparing the way for possible corrections to the green energy transition.

Better to fight now than during the election campaign

[…] The government does not primarily worry about the question whether the self-imposed targets are technically achievable. They are worried about the costs. “For me, the highest priority is that electricity remains affordable,” says Altmaier. Roesler repeated this almost verbatim.

Concern about rising electricity prices is politically understandable. Or rather, the concern about the voters’ reaction to the rising electricity prices. Because with all due sympathy for nuclear phase-out and green energy – if their own money is involved, many citizens do not care much about their green principles anymore. And since the green energy transformation is one of the key projects of Chancellor Angela Merkel, the voters’ anger about price increases could also be expressed by withdrawing of support for those responsible in the general election in 2013. This is at least what many in the coalition government fear.

The message of the Minister Altmaier and Roesler is clear: Dear voters, do not worry, the problem is identified, we will take care of it. And this message must be sent out by the government long enough before the general election, so that it cannot be blamed. Rather have a few inevitable battles now because, of course, the publicly expressed doubts are a gift for the opposition.

Translation Philipp Muller

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