German sector coupling needs to happen: Green Party
London, 20 September (Argus) — Germany will vote for its next government on 24 September. A three-way coalition between chancellor Angela Merkel's CDU-CSU union, the FDP and the Green Party has been trialled on a regional level and could end up as the alternative to a repeat of the CDU/CSU-SPD coalition. The Green party's energy spokesman Oliver Krischer talked to Argus about key energy policy positions.
Germany's renewable energy act (EEG) has come under scrutiny. Do you think it should be shelved within the next four years, or reformed?
The Green Party wants the energy transition to continue and to this end we need the participation of citizens and reliable framework conditions for those who want to make this happen. The EEG in the past ensured that we are where we are at with the energy transition in Germany and is a Green success story. But we do know, of course, that the EEG needs to be adjusted here and there — not only because the CDU/CSU-SPD coalition has significantly made the bill worse in many aspects but also because it is time to bring the EEG in line with the current market situation. We think, for instance, that switching to auctions for extended support for bioenergy is sensible. But we think it would be wrong to shelve EEG subsidies for wind and PV solar. Even though the first auction rounds for ground-mounted PV and wind projects show the energy industry is getting ready for an end to subsidies, we do not yet know whether these projects will be realised or will be profitable in the end. This will became clear only in a few years. In any case, I do not think it is acceptable to end EEG support for smaller PV and wind power projects because this form of participation should absolutely remain possible for everyone.
What do you think are the biggest hurdles for the electrification of the transport and heating sectors in Germany?
The energy transition will only move into the heating and transport sectors if renewable power becomes less expensive than fossil fuels. For this, we have to act and take measures that will distribute the costs for expanding renewable energies more evenly and to other sectors as well. It does not make sense at all that today the cleanest energy sources are more expensive than those which are the most ecologically harmful. So we have to redistribute costs and price CO2 appropriately. A CO2 tax could achieve that.
Should the next government ban certain technologies, for instance in the heating sector?
The energy transition has worked quite well in the power sector and now finally needs to happen in the transport and heating sector. And I think that the future lies in the electrification of these sectors. Of course, synthetic fuels can play a role in the future. But for this too we need renewable energy. So investments in large-scale power storage, batteries for electric cars and power-to-gas are absolutely necessary to ensure that Germany is not falling behind in terms of global research and development. In addition, we want to introduce a programme for storage solutions which are the key link between the power, heating and transport sectors. Natural and liquefied gas are fossil fuels that we will certainly need for a transitional period but in a few decades that will be a thing of the past and we can switch to a 100pc renewables. This is what we will need to achieve if we are serious about climate protection.
Do you think the target to have 1mn electric cars registered by 2020 is still achievable?
The last government sadly did not do anything to achieve this target and it will be difficult to reverse this within just three years. But of course, the Green Party will not put on the brakes but, to the contrary, will do anything we can to ensure that things happen in the transport sector. And this includes cleaning up the vehicle fleet, whether that is by replacing cars with electric vehicles or by switching to other forms of transportation. I think the Green Party has presented a very solid proposal for a mobility system with interlinked environmentally friendly forms of transportation.
The EU has decided on new caps for pollutants, such as NOx, from large combustion plants. What is your position on Germany possibly applying for derogations?
The reduction of NOx emissions from coal-fired power plants is important and the right thing to do. Derogations from the new rules would be counterproductive.
Should the next government decide on an exit for coal, lignite-fired power generation?
Absolutely. We need to exit from ecologically harmful coal and we have to introduce the end of coal-fired generation in a binding way. The Green Party plans to immediately shut down the 20 dirtiest coal plants and to cap CO2 emissions from the remaining coal units. For this we would introduce a CO2 budget for power plants. Affected regions would then be supported by a new fund to help with structural economic changes.
What role will the EU emissions trading scheme (ETS) play?
The energy transition will only arrive in the transport and heating sectors if there is a steering effect from CO2 pricing. For this reason, I think we absolutely need a CO2 floor price.
Do you support unified grid fees in Germany?
Yes, at least on a high-voltage grid level. The high-voltage grid ensures that power can be transported across Germany, for instance transporting wind power generation in the north to demand hubs in south Germany. This is something that should not only be paid for by power consumers living right next to the cable that facilitates that.
How important is the digitalisation of the energy sector and which framework conditions will be needed?
Digitalisation can make many areas safer and faster and is particularly useful for the stable operation of the grid and for efficient power supply. And it is useful for every household or company to have a good and accurate overview of their own power consumption and needs. This is the only way to take measures for more efficient consumption. But it is clear also that digitalisation cannot be at the expense of data protection and security. We can only ask the public to use digital technology if it is safe. This is the responsibility of the government, which needs to provide a solid regulatory framework.