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"Energiewende": Cost Driver or Climate Rescuer?

08/30/2013 - One of the greatest challenges for the new federal government to be in office as of autumn is - independent of its political composition – the energy turnaround. In the target triangle of food security, efficiency and sustainability, tension is increasing. At the background meeting of the German Climate Consortium last week, the central question therefore was “Energiewende: Cost driver or climate rescuer? The answer: “So far neither nor” said Brigitte Knopf from the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research. Together with Erik Gawel from the Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research (UFZ), she answered questions from journalists.
"Energiewende": Cost Driver or Climate Rescuer?

Brigitte Knopf of PIK and Marie-Luise Beck, managing director of DKK, at the Energiewende debate. Photo: DKK

“The goals climate protection and expansion of renewables increasingly conflict with one another” said Knopf. If the energy transformation is understood as a move towards renewable energies with a simultaneous phasing-out of nuclear energy, it has so far been a success. The production of energy from sun and wind has reached a so far unprecedented dimension. “If the energy transformation is however understood as a contribution to global climate protection, it has so far not been a success” said Knopf. Emissions in Germany increased last year. From the economic perspective, it is important to assess which goals can be reached at what cost. According to Knopf, an Europeanisation of the energy transformation would be important. “The discussion about the shaping of the political framework for 2030 so far lacks any substantial contribution from German politics”.

Gawel is critical on this approach – “an undifferentiated Europeanisation” could also slow down the energy transformation, he said, which is already today “not a German solo effort”. The current transformation costs come with long-term benefits, according to Gawel: “The energy turnaround cannot only be evaluated in terms of the costs that appear on the electricity bill and also not only based on current – distorted – market prices”. The current burden-sharing is inequitable and hardly justifiable, said Gawel. “The exceptions in favour of the industry need to be verified”.

Both speakers emphasised that the Renewable Energies Act (EEG) needs to be adjusted in the long run due to the new reality created by the energy system’s transformation, and that the European emission trade could more effectively be developed. To cover the electricity sector alone is not sufficient, they argued. The inclusion of heat generation and the transport section is also of crucial importance.


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