Most German businesses support nuclear extension

03 September 2008

A survey conducted by the German association of Chambers of Industry and Commerce (DIHK) indicates that almost 80% of businesses are in favour of extending the operating lives of country's nuclear power plants beyond current phase-out dates.

Neckarwestheim (EnBW) 
Neckarwestheim. All German reactors
are supposed to shut down by 2015
(Image: EnBW)
The online survey of more than 1150 businesses (46% in the industrial and construction sector; 21% traders; and 33% in the services sector) was conducted in mid July to gauge the opinion of companies on the country's climate and environmental protection measures.

The results indicate that businesses view some measures and policy decisions very sceptically, while others are seen more positively. Concerning some issues, the majority of companies were more concerned about how some government moves would affect their competitiveness, rather than how they would help the government attain its climate protection goals. This was particularly true for the government's eco-tax and its toll on trucks.

There was therefore great support for companies to increase energy efficiency, but also to extend the operating lives of the country's nuclear power reactors and for the meaningful use of renewable energy sources.

Almost 80% of companies said that, as a result of the Renewable Energy Law, they consider the impact of higher electricity prices for renewable energies on their businesses as negative or very negative. Currently, about 1% of the cost of electricity (per kilowatt hour) is used for the promotion of renewable energy.

The businesses were asked to select three measures from of list of six that they considered most suitable for the government to meet its climate protection goals. The six options were: extending the lives of nuclear reactors; promoting energy efficiency; increasing the proportion of renewable energy; emissions trading; bans; and ecotaxes. 78.1% of the companies selected the extended use of the country's nuclear power plants as one of their choices, followed by 75.8% calling for energy efficiency and 60.8% wanting the increased use of renewable energy sources.

The DIHK is the central organisation for 80 Chambers of Industry and Commerce across Germany. All German companies with the exception of handicraft businesses, the free professions and farms, are required by law to join a chamber. The DIHK therefore speaks for more than three million enterprises.

The DIHK said that the relocation of German businesses abroad, particularly in the industrial and construction sector, should be regarded as a warning. Using the results of the survey as a pointer, it suggested five measures to improve the situation. These were: extending the operating lives of nuclear reactors; a wide-ranging waiver auction of emission allowances; a waiver to increase truck tolls; the promotion of energy efficiency consultancy; and strengthening of energy research.

Nuclear power plants generate about one third of Germany's electricity, but a coalition government formed after the 1998 federal election made the policy of phasing out nuclear energy under Green environment minister Jurgen Trittin. Currently, under a 2000 compromise, the operational lives of German power reactors are limited to an average of 32 years, although operators can apply to transfer generation time from lesser to more efficient plants. Two reactors have already been shut down early, and although some generation time has been passed from older to newer plants for economic reasons, the agreement would eventually see all reactors shut down by 2015. Many similar power reactors in other countries are licensed to safely operate for up to 60 years. Now, the new coalition government formed in 2005 led by Angela Merkel is less certain of the inherited phase-out policy.

Filed under: This article is not categorised