This article was published by Clean Energy Wire on March 9, 2022.
For more background and analysis on the implications of Russias war against Ukraine for German and European energy and climate policy, see this dossier.
Germany must transform power system ‘at Tesla speed’ but tread carefully regarding Russian imports – econ min
The pivot away from Russian energy imports will require Germany to double down on its energy transition efforts and apply a speed similar to that of Tesla with its new factory near Berlin, economy and climate minister Robert Habeck said at a press conference following a meeting with state minister colleagues. “We cannot continue at our dozy pace,” Habeck said. The minister defended Germany’s careful treading regarding a full halt to energy trading with Russia after its attack on Ukraine, arguing that a complete halt to trading would “not mean just inconveniences at the individual level but immense damages to the entire society that ultimately could undermine other sanctions” against Russia.
Russian energy import ban is possible if Germany uses more coal – PIK director
Europe could manage to stop Russian energy imports by using more coal for power production in the short term, said the director of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research (PIK), Ottmar Edenhofer. “Yes, we could cope with enforcing this import ban,” Edenhofer said, arguing that “you don’t have to slavishly follow phase-out dates as long as the emissions cap is met.”
MP proposes “car-free Sundays“ as an option to reduce energy demand in Germany
Social Democratic MP Nina Scheer suggests that private citizens can contribute more to save energy in light of the Russian war on Ukraine. Scheer proposes a revival of “car-free Sundays”, four of which were implemented during the oil crisis of 1973. “Car-free Sundays have not harmed us in the past and could also make a contribution today if a corresponding shortage requires it,” Scheer says. Green party energy and climate expert Ingrid Nestle also suggests to “empower people to be mindful of their energy use,” for example with basic information on the effects of slightly lowering the room temperature, or using a washing line instead of a dryer.
Head of coal state wants to stick to earlier exit date
Coal mining state and industrial hub North Rhine-Westphalia aims to phase out coal by 2030, the date that the federal government is aiming for, state premier Hendrik Wüst (CDU) says according to a dpa report. It is clear that “the hope of being able to replace coal with Russian gas for a transitional period has now been dashed,” Wüst says. But as long as power supply is secure and energy prices remain affordable, his government would continue to support a quick end of coal, he says.
Extending nuclear plants’ runtime not advisable, German govt concludes
Germany’s government has concluded that prolonging the runtime of its remaining nuclear power plants is not advisable even in the current energy crisis sparked by the Russian invasion on Ukraine. “Following a cost-benefit analysis, a longer runtime for the three remaining nuclear plants is not advisable even in light of the current gas crisis,” a report drafted by the two Green Party-led ministries for climate and economy (BMWK) and for the environment and nuclear safety (BMUV) found.
Chancellor Scholz says Russian energy supplies “essential”
German Chancellor Olaf Scholz has rejected calls for immediately ending all energy trading with Russia in response to its invasion of Ukraine. “Europe’s supply of energy for heating, mobility, electricity and industry currently cannot be secured in any other way,” Scholz said in an e-mailed statement from the government. The head of Germany’s government said the exempting energy trading from the current slew of sanctions was a “conscious” decision by European governments, as these imports “are of essential importance for the everyday life of our citizens.”
Biogas could “immediately” replace 5 percent of Germany’s Russian gas imports – industry
Biogas plants could “immediately” replace up to five percent of Russian gas imports to Germany with renewable energy, Horst Seide, head of the national Biogas association, has said in an article by news agency dpa carried by Der Spiegel. A prerequisite would be to remove the current support cap on biogas plant support in Germany’s Renewable Energy Act (EEG), which Seide called “out of date.” Europe-wide, about 35 billion cubic metres of biogas could be produced by 2030 and the technology could cover between 30 and 50 percent of Europe’s total gas needs by 2050, the European Biogas Association said.
Pump price for diesel fuel exceeds two euros per litre for first time in Germany
The price at the pump for diesel fuel has exceeded two euros per litre for the first time ever in Germany, according to motoring association ADAC. Partly caused by the increased demand for heating oil, the average price for a litre of diesel climbed to 2.032 euros, whereas E10 premium gasoline cost 2.008 euros. Since the outbreak of Russia’s war in Ukraine on 24 February, diesel prices have spiked by 33 cents, the organisation said, whereas prices for E10 climbed by 22 cents. ADAC’s Jürgen Albrecht told newspaper Der Spiegel that house owners would be stocking up on heating oil in expectation of supply bottlenecks and possible shortages in the coming 2022/2023 winter season as importers are expected to drastically cut deliveries from Russia.
5 – 7 March
Environmental groups urge Germany to present binding plan to end gas use by 2040
Several environmental groups are calling on Germany’s government to quickly present “a binding phase-out path for fossil gas” by 2040 in order to enable the country’s complete decarbonisation and reduce reliance on Russia as a trade partner. Umbrella organization DNR and others said the “epochal change” triggered by Russian president Vladimir Putin’s attack on Ukraine has “put many things into question and reshuffles priorities.” The war must end as quickly as possible and measures to avert a climate breakdown go hand in hand with this, the groups said. “From a climate as well as a peacemaking policy perspective, ending the dependence on fossil fuel imports must become a priority,” they wrote.
German operators prepare for extending runtime of decommissioned coal plants
German coal power plant operators are making provisions for a runtime extension of decommissioned stations in preparation for possible energy supply disruptions as a result of the war in Ukraine. “We’re inspecting our facilities to remain ready if the government deems such measures necessary,” a spokesperson for energy provider RWE told the newspaper. Besides RWE, operators Vattenfall, EnBW and Steag also confirmed they are reviewing their decommissioning plans.
Govt will fund half of new LNG terminal in alliance with Dutch operator
The planned terminal for liquefied natural gas (LNG) imports in northern Germany will be co-funded with a 50 percent government stake in cooperation with Dutch state-owned energy company Gasunie and German company RWE, the economy and climate ministry (BMWK) has said. Money for the new terminal in Brunsbüttel, which is meant to reduce Germany’s dependence on Russian gas deliveries, will be provided by Germany’s state-owned development bank KfW. The terminal will have a regasification capacity of eight billion cubic metres per year and should be built “as quickly as possible,” the ministry said.
Treasury announces 200 billion-energy transition spending in independence push
The German government has earmarked about 200 billion euros for investments in decarbonization and greater independence from imported fossil fuels over the next four years. Finance minister Christian Lindner (FDP) said the funds, which will be disbursed by 2026, will be used to boost the expansion of e-car charging infrastructure, hydrogen production, lower power prices and the construction of more renewable power sources. Lindner called renewable power sources “freedom energies” that can allow Germany a greater degree of energy independence
German industry urges careful handling of pivot away from Russia, rejects longer nuclear plant runtime
Dependence on Russian fuel must be quickly reduced in Germany, even though it is likely to cost the country a considerable “insurance premium” on energy security, says the head of industry lobby group BDI, Siegfried Russwurm. However, Russwurm says energy supplies from Russia should not be cut entirely in the short-term in order to avoid “sanctioning ourselves more than the aggressor.” Russwurm said coal imports could be replaced quickly, whereas the construction of new liquefied natural gas (LNG) terminals will take at least three years. He firmly rejected reopening the debate about Germany’s nuclear exit, arguing that “coal is the true elasticity factor.”
Leading politicians warn against full halt to energy trading with Russia
High-ranking German politicians say they reject a full suspension of energy trading with Russia due to a lack of readily available substitutes for imported oil, gas and coal. Finance minister Christian Lindner from the Free Democrats (FDP) says renouncing Russian energy imports would mean that “prices in western Europe and around the world skyrocket due to the expected scarcity.” He warned supply bottlenecks could be expected by next winter “and we would have to discuss very drastic measures in response.” Green foreign minister Annalena Baerbock says that a boycott would need be very well prepared, as it would have to last at least several months. Markus Söder, conservative CSU leader and state premier of economic heavyweight Bavaria, warns an import ban would mean “it could become very cold and expensive” in Germany. By contrast, Norbert Röttgen, security expert of the conservative CDU, advocated for cutting imports “as much as possible” in a guest article for newspaper Tagesspiegel.
Russian attack on Ukrainian nuclear power stations
Following Russian shelling of a nuclear power station in Ukraine, the German environment ministry says it is watching the situation closely. The UN nuclear agency IAEA expresses concern over the safety of Ukrainian nuclear plants, and its secretary general Rafael Mariano Grossi calls the situation unprecedented. “For the first time, a military conflict is taking place between the facilities of a large and established nuclear programme.” Some German politicians and energy experts had called for letting the country’s three remaining nuclear plants run longer, to make up for a reduced use of gas in power generation (see below).
Germans support steps against Russia even if they endanger energy supply – survey
A majority of Germans support the measures governments are taking against Russia even if they lead to problems with energy supply, a survey by infratest dimap commissioned by public broadcaster ARD has found. Sixty-six percent of respondents said they worry the invasion of Ukraine could result in cuts to Germany’s gas and energy supply. However, more than two thirds (68 percent) of all respondents said they would support measures against Russia “even if it leads to bottlenecks in energy supply,” while 66 percent supported them even if energy prices and costs of living increase. Supporters of the far-right populist Alternative für Deutschland (AfD) are the only group that does not support the measures against Russia if they lead to energy supply issues.
Chancellor Scholz urges former chancellor Schröder to resign from Russian company posts
Both the Social Democrats (SPD) party leadership and German chancellor Olaf Scholz (SPD) urge former chancellor Gerhard Schröder (SPD) to resign from his positions at Russian state-owned companies. Schröder, who has so far stayed silent about his long-criticized involvement in Russian energy companies Rosneft and Gazprom, as well as the Nord Stream 2 AG, this week saw the resignation of all staff at his Berlin office due to his failure to distance himself from Russian president Vladimir Putin and the Russian companies he works for.
“Don’t use the situation for a false debate on nuclear” – econ & climate minister
After saying earlier this week that all forms of energy that could help secure Germany’s power supply for next winter should be considered “without ideological bias”, including coal and nuclear plants, economy and climate minister Robert Habeck (Green Party) reiterates that he doesn’t believe an extended runtime of Germany’s three nuclear power plants would be a solution. Leaving all options open should not be misused for a false debate, he says. “The possible bottleneck we may face is the winter of 2022-2023, and according to all I know this [nuclear power] will not help us there. For the following winters we will have created alternatives,” he says at a press conference in Berlin.
Econ minister opposes Russian energy embargo
German economy and climate minister Robert Habeck says he is opposed to an energy embargo against Russia due to his country’s high dependency on imported fossil fuels. “That would endanger the social peace in the entire republic” he says. “Those who want to harm Putin, have to save energy,” he adds.
2 & 3 March
State premiers call for longer coal and nuclear run times
Dietmar Woidke, SPD state premier of lignite-mining state Brandenburg, says he no longer believes it’s possible to bring forward the 2038 coal phase-out date to 2030. Coal must play a role in the discussion on how Germany will secure a reliable energy supply, Woidke says, echoing similar demands from Saxony’s state premier Michael Kretschmer (CDU) and Rainer Haseloff (CDU) of Saxony-Anhalt. Green economy and climate state secretary Oliver Krischer says “[the coal phase-out] is in eight years’ time, by which time we will hopefully be where we want to be with renewable energies.” FDP energy expert Lukas Köhler says: “Even if we have to readjust the path, there is currently no reason to abandon this goal” of phasing out coal by 2030. Bavaria’s state premier Markus Söder (Christian Social Democrats) says he would prefer to extend the runtime of nuclear plants rather than using coal-fired plants to secure supply.
Two nuclear plant operators say extended use is possible
Two nuclear plant operators indicate that an extended use of the power stations would be possible if the government demands it and ensures all the necessary technical, organizational and regulatory framework conditions. Earlier this week, nuclear operators told Clean Energy Wire, they were too far advanced with their shut-down planning, and were lacking both the specialized personnel and the fuel to continue operating the country’s last plants past the end of the year.
IEA advises delay of nuclear plant closures
The International Energy Agency (IEA) advises that “a temporary delay of [four nuclear plant] closures [in the EU], conducted in a way that assures the plants’ safe operation, could cut EU gas demand by almost 1 bcm per month”. The IEA’s Fatih Birol says “there may be a merit in revisiting the decision” to shut nuclear plants.
Researchers propose longer coal usage if necessary, say total emissions are capped in EU ETS
A group of Germany-based researchers signed an open letter to politicians proposing that “for the next few years, all available coal and nuclear power plants should be maintained or reactivated.” They say that “under normal circumstances” they would oppose such changes. However, in the case of coal, they also point out that emissions of all coal-fired power plants are capped under the EU emission trading system (EU ETS) so that higher emissions today must be compensated by lower emissions in the future. “As long as the fit-for-55 reform of the EU ETS (especially the tightening of the cap) is not watered down due to the current crisis, the climate policy goals will not be compromised,” they wrote.
German conservative MEP calls for review of EU climate targets
In view of the Russian war of aggression in Ukraine, Christian Democrat (CDU) MEP Dennis Radtke calls for a review of EU climate targets. “We cannot, when we call for the hard cut with Russian gas and coal, pretend that this has no effect on previous climate policy plans,” Radtke says.
Green MP demands new risk assessment of nuclear plants in Germany
Safety requirements for European nuclear plants should be reviewed in light of Russia’s war against Ukraine, says Stefan Wenzel, Green Party spokesperson for the environment and nuclear safety. “An attack in a warlike conflict has not been one of the possible scenarios so far. He adds that fighting close to Ukrainian power plants, the threats of Russian president Vladimir Putin and various cyber-attacks on Western critical infrastructure in recent months “must therefore be taken very seriously – they are a danger.” He adds that it is “irresponsible” if two companies [E.ON and EnBW] now offered to continue operation with reduced safety requirements.
War’s knock-on effects could lead to Germany missing emissions reduction targets
Germany might struggle to keep up with emission reduction targets in the energy sector due to the knock-on effects of Russia’s assault on Ukraine, the German Federation of Energy and Water Industries (BDEW) has said. In an analysis of the war’s implications for Germany’s energy supply security, the BDEW said the industry will “assess all options available in the short, medium and long run to make energy supply more independent and resilient.” This might have “temporary effects on short-term emissions reduction targets,” the lobby group added. The BDEW also said the Russian invasion will cause already high energy prices to increase further, meaning there will be “undeniable consequences” for energy companies’ procurement practices. Even though Germany will remain an energy importer in the future, the “fast and massive expansion of renewable energy sources” is now needed more than ever in order to maximize energy autonomy.
Gazprom says gas flows to Europe via Ukraine to continue as usual
Russia’s state-owned gas company Gazprom said it isn’t planning any reduction of gas volume transport to Europe through pipelines in war-torn Ukraine. According to Russian news agency Interfax, gas flows are not expected in the week after Russian president Vladimir Putin ordered the invasion of Ukraine. Shipments will remain “large” due to the increased demand by European customers as a reaction to the outbreak of war. Ukraine’s gas transmission system operator reported a booking of about 106 million cubic metres for the last day of February.
Vattenfall halts dismantling of major German coal plant as a precaution
Energy company Vattenfall has halted preparations for dismantling the Moorburg coal plant in Hamburg as a consequence of Russia’s war in Ukraine. The Swedish company said it did not plan to recommission the plant in Germany’s second biggest city unless the government or the national grid agency (BNetzA) ordered it to do so, public broadcaster NDR reported. Suspending the dismantling of the modern hard coal plant would be a precautionary measure to assess the situation and keep options for alternative energy supplies open, as Russian gas deliveries could come to an end in the near future, the company said. If there are no requests to relaunch the plant, dismantling would continue as planned, it added. The Moorburg plant, one of the biggest of its kind in Europe, was opened in 2015 before being spectacularly slated for decommissioning just six years later due to Germany’s coal exit. Vattenfall plans to convert the facility into a hydrogen plant that will operate with synthetic gas produced by renewable power installations.
The outbreak of war in eastern Europe is sending shockwaves through Germany’s political class and is reshaping the energy transition debate, as the country’s most important energy trading partner Russia increasingly turns into a liability to international security. Plans to enable the country’s ambitious energy transition in part with the help of Russian gas may well evaporate if the spiralling conflict severs ties between the EU and Moscow. Read the analysis here.
Push for more renewables & options for coal and nuclear
Well before Russia started to wage war on Ukraine , Germany’s government begun to decide on a wide-ranging renewables reform that should make the country’s power supply almost 100 percent renewable by 2035. In a draft paper seen by Clean Energy Wire, the economy and climate ministry proposes higher renewable capacity targets for 2030, aligning the German clean energy path with the 1.5 degree warming limit. While insisting there would be no taboos when looking into supply security, minister Robert Habeck says that using imported coal for longer or letting existing nuclear plants remain online would likely not be feasible solutions. Habeck said that letting coal plants run longer “means a longer dependence on hard coal from Russia”, while buying coal elsewhere would create a dependency on other countries. Regarding nuclear, the Green Party minister – whose party is in staunch opposition to nuclear energy – said that he wouldn’t “ideologically reject” letting existing plants run longer but that his ministry’s initial examination had shown that “for the winter of 2022/23 nuclear power would not help us”. Preparations for the upcoming shutdowns are so far advanced, he said, that the nuclear power plants can only continue to operate “under the highest safety concerns and possibly with fuel supplies that have not yet been secured”.
Germany’s gas supply secure for winter and summer – minister
Economy and climate minister Robert Habeck said that Germany’s gas supply was secure for this winter and throughout the summer without Russian gas. But for the coming winter, the procurement strategy had to be extended considerably. “The most important step would be to curb our gas-hunger. We will very soon present a gas-reduction plan, in order to reduce our vulnerability,” he said.
Germany agrees on SWIFT sanctions
Dropping earlier resistance, Germany agrees with its Western allies to oust Russian banks from the SWIFT global payments system. The sanctions agreed by Germany, France, the EU Commission, the US, Great Britain and Canada will also limit the ability of Russia’s central bank to support the rouble, a government spokesperson says.
Govt supports two LNG terminals
The German government will push the construction of what would be the country’s first two liquefied natural gas (LNG) import terminals as part of its efforts to secure energy supply in light of Russia’s war against Ukraine, says Chancellor Olaf Scholz in parliament. “We made the decision to quickly build two liquefied natural gas terminals, LNG terminals, in Brunsbüttel and Wilhelmshaven.”
Plans to establish strategic coal and gas reserves
Economy and climate minister Robert Habeck says Germany will safely get through this winter even if Russia cuts of energy supplies. In order to prevent future supply shocks and reduce dependence on Russia, the government plans to establish strategic coal and gas reserves. Habeck adds Germany must speed up the expansion of renewables to become more independent of fossil fuel imports, and build terminals for liquefied natural gas (LNG) to diversify supply.
Germany opposes cutting Russia off from SWIFT
Germany opposes Russia’s cutoff from SWIFT banking system over concerns this step will impact key energy and raw material imports from Russia. “There is a high risk that Germany will no longer be supplied with gas or raw materials”, says German finance minister Christian Lindner.
Russia attacks Ukraine after president Vladimir Putin declares war in a pre-dawn televised address.
Govt agrees wide-ranging plan to provide financial relief to consumers
In view of skyrocketing energy costs, the German government agrees on a wide-ranging plan to provide financial relief to consumers, including pulling forward the elimination of the renewable energy levy to 1 July – a move that will save electricity users 6.6 billion euros. The 10-point plan, which still has to be approved by the parliament, also includes a higher commuter allowance and additional support for recipients of welfare and unemployment benefits.
Germany puts Nord Stream 2 on hold
Germany puts the contentious Nord Stream 2 pipeline project on hold by halting the certification process for the already completed direct gas link between Germany and Russia. Asked about whether the pipeline would ever start operations, chancellor Olaf Scholz says no one could make a prediction at this moment, and “nobody should bet on it.” Many German politicians, business associations, and environmental NGOs welcome the decision. [See our Q&A: What does Germany’s decision to put Nord Stream 2 on hold mean?]
High prices endanger industrial companies
Almost one quarter of German small and medium-sized industrial companies say the high energy prices endanger their survival, according to a survey by the Federation of German Industries (BDI). “Rising electricity and gas prices are threatening to crush the economy,” said BDI President Siegfried Russwurm. The situation is already forcing companies to save on climate neutrality plans, the lobby group said.