Tight Timeframe for Accelerated Transformation of German Energy Infrastructure

The German Federation and the Federal States want to phase-out nuclear energy earlier than previously envisaged. They intend to accelerate the transition towards renewable energy supply in Germany. The government will present the necessary draft acts in June, Chancellor Angela Merkel said after an energy summit with the 16 state premiers from the Länder.

Following the Fukushima nuclear disaster, the German federal government had announced a 3-month moratorium on the nuclear power extension, effectively altering its Energy Concept last October. The seven oldest nuclear power plants have meanwhile been temporarily shut down. Additional safety checks for all 17 German nuclear power plants are being carried out. An ethics commission has been created. It shall assess ethical questions of the future of nuclear power and supplement the work of the Reactor Safety Commission (RSK).

According to the ambitious schedule that Mrs Merkel presented,

  • RSK is to present a report in mid-May;
  • The ethics commission is to present proposals at the end of May;
  • On 3 June Chancellor Merkel is to meet again with the state premiers;
  • The government will decide about the draft acts on 6 June;
  • This shall be followed by readings in the Federal Parliament (Bundestag) and the Federal Council (Bundestag) of necessary statutory amendments;
  • A final decision shall be taken by the Federal Council on 17 June 2011. According to the government’s press release, the state premiers agreed to this date.

With regard to the accelerated phase-out of nuclear power, Chancellor Merkel said there was agreement that a decision has to be taken that shall be legally unambiguous. This shall include an amendment of the Atomic Energy Act (Atomgesetz – AtG). Not only the operating times as such shall be considered, but every individual nuclear power plant, as the issue was not only the nuclear phase-out, but a self-sufficient German energy supply without nuclear energy. It remained unclear what this shall entail.

Efficient networks, a speedy expansion of renewable energy and increased energy efficiency were considered of paramount importance for the transformation of the energy supply. Hence, talks between the Federal States and the Federation pertaining to these issues are to take place.

In terms of the necessary investments, the following measures have been announced:

  • The state-owned KfW bank will provide EUR 5 billion for investments in offshore wind parks, as agreed in the 10-Point Immediate Action Programme accompanying the German Energy Concept
  • Environment Minister Röttgen said a consistent and uniform planning and permitting regime for onshore and offshore wind turbines shall be created. This shall include for example maximum heights and the required distance to residential housing, as well as creating designated wind turbine areas.
  • Regarding investments into the grid, Federal Minister of Economics Rainer Brüderle again pointed out that some 3,600 km of power lines were needed. He also emphasised the need for new storage technologies and announced new research funds of EUR 200 million. Details shall be made public in the near future.
  • Finally, the government wanted to increase energy-savings and energy-efficiency, i.e. by increasing the rate of energy-efficient renovations from one to two percent per year, Federal Minister of Building Peter Ramsauer said.

The costs of the energy transformation for individuals and companies are not yet clear, the government’s press release quotes Minister Röttgen as saying.

Sources: Federal Government, Federal Ministry of Economics and Technology

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