German government partners agree on energy policy

03 July 2015

Germany's coalition government parties have agreed on measures to enable the country to meet its 2020 carbon emission targets while transitioning to renewable energy sources. As part of the deal, some coal-fuelled power plants will be shut down with others kept in reserve in case of energy shortages.

The Energiewende policy adopted by Germany in 2011 in response to the Fukushima nuclear accident in Japan calls for the closure of all of the country's nuclear power plants by 2022, pushing to replace the lost capacity with an increase in renewables.

Economy minister Sigmar Gabriel announced yesterday that, after months of debate, the parties making up the coalition government had agreed comprises on how the country would proceed with its energy transition whilst ensuring it meets its target of a 40% reduction in CO2 emissions by 2020.

As part of the plan, a proposed levy on coal-fired plants will be scrapped. However, some 2.7 GW of coal-powered generating capacity (representing about 13% of installed coal power) will be gradually transferred to a reserve capacity and then shut down after four years. Meanwhile, power producers would be compensated if they participate in a new "capacity reserve" system where coal-fired plants would be kept in reserve and brought online when needed.

The government also announced support for combined heat and power (CHP) generation, providing funding for the switch from existing coal-fired CHP plants to gas-fired plants.

Gabriel noted, "The network expansion is the bottleneck of the energy transition" as some within the government had opposed the expansion of overhead lines.

He announced that an agreement had been reached that underground cables would take precedence over overhead ones. "That does not change the fundamental need for expansion, especially from north to south. The point is that cheaper electricity from renewable energy sources in the north must be made available to electricity consumers in the south of our country," Gabriel said.

With regards to nuclear energy, the minister reiterated that the responsibility for the costs of decommissioning nuclear power plants and the disposal of radioactive waste lies with the energy supply companies. "We will ensure that this is guaranteed in the future," he said. In the first step, a stress test will be performed to assess the costs and the government would then draw up legislation later this year to ensure that the necessary funding is met.

By the end of November a commission will draft recommendations on how the financial resources for decommissioning and waste disposal can best be managed in the long term, he said.

"We are on schedule in the implementation of the energy transition in accordance with our ten-point energy agenda. After lengthy negotiations we have succeeded in cutting the Gordian Knot with the urgent decisions being taken. We can even say we have crafted an historic package for the energy transition and the economic future of our country. Now it can make rapid progress," Gabriel said. "With the package of measures I am presenting, we have set the course for a successful energy transition, giving it a structure and making it predictable for all parties.

"We stand by our national climate targets, whilst making certain that they can be achieved with economically and socially acceptable solutions.

"We are serious about the energy transition [...] It is now irreversible."

Researched and written
by World Nuclear News