Energy Positions in Pre-Election Television Debate Between Chancellor Merkel and Social Democrat Opponent Peer Steinbrück

Last night the four television channels ARD, ZDF, RTL and ProSieben broadcast the only television debate between Conservative Chancellor Angela Merkel (CDU) and her main opponent Peer Steinbrück from the Social Democratic Party (SPD) before the federal election on 22 September 2013.

The 90-minute debate touched on the subject of the German energy transition towards renewable energy supply (Energiewende) for about six minutes. The candidates did not engage in a discussion, but merely answered questions. Despite Mr Steinbrück’s general criticism of the management of the Energiewende, the positions did not seen seem irreconcilable.

1. Angela Merkel

Mrs Merkel defended her decision following the Fukushima disaster to phase out nuclear power in Germany until 2022, despite the steadily rising electricity costs. Electricity had to remain affordable, while the security of supply had to be ensured, but the majority in Germany wanted the Energiewende, and the issues were manageable, though not easy, she said, adding that Germany’s export opportunities would rise in the long run.
The costs related to the support of renewables had indeed continuously risen and in particular with regard to PV to an extent no-one had expected, she admitted. That was why a reform of the Renewable Energy Sources Act (EEG) that linked the expansion of renewable energy sources with grid expansion and the necessary base load supply was necessary, Mrs Merkel said, pointing out that she had preferred an EEG revision before the election (regarding the failed efforts to do so, please see here).

2. Peer Steinbrück

Asked whether the Federal Council, the legislative body that represents the interests of the sixteen German states, in which the opposition parties hold a majority, did not agree to an EEG amendment in the past, Mr Steinbrück called the proposals made at the beginning of the year by Environment Minister Altmaier (CDU) rather surprising and uncoordinated. He also called the management of the Energiewende a disaster and the greatest barrier to investment.

Following this he outlined that he would reduce the electricity tax as a first step to relief the burden for consumers if he became Chancellor (regarding this SPD position, please see the first link provided below and the link above). He also announced a fundamental EEG reform, which had to do away “with excessive support and exemptions”. He agreed with Mrs Merkel that renewable growth had to be aligned with grid expansion and called for greater energy efficiency efforts and a framework that provided for investment in conventional (back-up) power plants. With regard to a remark by SPD chairman Sigmar Gabriel that the Energiewende could lead to deindustrialisation, Mr Steinbrück said the SPD wanted to support the whole industrial production chain that was the backbone of Germany’s strength. Asked by how much he would reduce the electricity price, he said first of all he had to prevent further increases and could not promise reductions.

Regarding the party positions on energy policy by the main political parties, please see related blog posts below.

Source: RTL

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