German Environment Minister Barbara Hendricks on Paris 2015, Renewables and Nuclear Decommissioning Costs

The keynote speech of the German Minister of the Environment, Barbara Hendricks, at the Handelsblatt Annual Energy Conference focused on Germany’s perspective and expectation for the Climate Conference 2015 in Paris. She stressed the importance to agree on a follow-up agreement of the Kyoto Protocol. The fact that the USA and China have reached an agreement very much increases the chances for a compromise. However, she noted that it will be very challenges and requires the will to compromise from all parties to reach a global accord.

Barbara Hendricks reminded that an important element of the already existing framework is the commitment of industrial countries to make available funds of 100 billion USD per year from the year 2020 for decarbonization investments in the southern hemisphere. This will only be possible if also private funds are integrated. But it is still unclear how this will happen. She believes that this also will provide huge opportunities for German industry and investors. m

As regards national climate targets set in the National Climate Action Plan published in  2014 and covering the period until the year 2050, now a more detailed agenda and step plan needs to be developed in order to make clear to affected industries how this will be accomplished. She in particular mentioned the lignite mining sector and lignite-based power generation facilities which – similar to German hard coal mines – need a clear perspective and shall know when lignite will be due to be phased out.

Barbara Hendricks pointed out that Germany’s huge investments in the build-up of renewable energies, in particular photovoltaic, has helped to substantially decrease the costs of these forms of renewable energy. Thus, while it is also true that a more careful and slower expansion of renewable energies would have been less costly to the German consumer who has to pay for the according feed-in tariffs – as critics of this approach have noted – she stressed that the overall effects are positive: German industry is among the leaders in global renewable technologies; thus these investments are paying back to a certain extent. And if these efforts have helped to lower the hurdle for other countries to increase investments in renewable energies, already this would be worthwhile from her point of view.

In addition to that Barbara Hendricks touched on the reserves for the decommissioning of nuclear power plants. She made it clear that the operators of nuclear power plants have to ensure and certify that the funds needed for the decommissioning and long-term storage of nuclear waste are actually available.

Source: Handelsblatt Jahrestagung Energiewirtschaft 2015

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