The prospects for nuclear energy in Germany's September election look good, according to an analysis by Deutsche Bank, but coalition politics remain finely balanced.
There are five weeks to go before the federal elections in Germany, and although debate is naturally dominated by economic concerns, energy policy remains a major issue. And within that sphere, the question of whether to stick to a 1998 decision to end nuclear power divides the main parties.
Deutsche Bank's poll tracking puts Chancellor Angela Merkel's CDU party clearly in the lead with about 37% of the vote. Her personal popularity is confirmed by a leading 65% support as national leader, far ahead of the 23% of Frank-Walter Steinmeier whose SDP enjoys only the same share.
With Germany's system of proportional representation, a coalition of parties is required to make an overall majority for government, meaning the election result will probably hinge on who Merkel chooses as a partner. Deutsche Bank said there was much cause to believe in a CDU coalition with the FDP, who also would seek to end the nuclear phase-out. The bank's analysts said: "We hope that this decision will hold for a longer horizon that just one legislative period."
However, waiting in the wings for a chance to enter power are the Green Party, currently polling at about 14%, and Die Linke on 12%. Should either of those gain influence in office, any hopes for the end of the phase-out would be lost for another term.
The bank's favoured combination of the CDU, its sister party CSU and the FDP would probably have 50% of parliamentary seats, it said. But this figure puts the future for nuclear power on a knife-edge: A grand coalition including the SDP would have 60% and a potential CDU/CSU/FDP/Green combo would have 63%.
Deutsche Bank noted that Merkel and the CSU are currently gaining in popularity while Stenmeier and the SPD fall, and that a television debate in coming weeks will likely cover energy issues.
Germans refer to the potential revision of the nuclear phase-out decision as 'lifetime extension' for the country's 17 reactors. It is thought this would be heavily taxed at around 50%, but would still lead to profit increases of a few percent for RWE and EOn over the next few years while boosting the country's chances of meeting climate goals.