Germany's chemical industry slams Merkel's new ‘energy concept’

07 September 2010 17:49  [Source: ICIS news]

TORONTO (ICIS)--Germany’s chemical industry on Tuesday joined other energy-intensive industrial producers in criticising the government’s long-awaited energy concept through 2050.

The government’s plan - launched on Monday - to vastly increase renewable energy’s share was not yet viable as Germany could not cover its energy needs from renewables within the foreseeable future, said Utz Tillman, general manager of Frankfurt-based chemical industry trade group VCI.

Rather, the plan would trigger a “cost landslide” for both industry and consumers, he said.

Producers were already facing soaring costs from emissions trading, subsidies towards renewables, and rising eco-energy taxes, he said.

“Energy must be secure, clean and affordable,” he said.

Under Merkel’s proposal, Germany would boost renewable energy’s share to 18% of overall energy consumption by 2020, a target that would be raised to 30% by 2030, 45% by 2040, and 60% by 2050.

The government would promote wind power production facilities in the North Sea and invest in transmission capacities for renewables.

At the same time, the government would extend the life-span of its nuclear power plants by an average 12 years, with the individual life-span extensions depending on the age of the respective nuclear power facility.

Germany's last nuclear power plant was expected to stop producing by around 2036. An earlier government had committed the country to ending nuclear power production by 2022.

In return for the life-span extension, nuclear power plant operators would be subjected to a special tax – a measure a number of industry leaders have opposed.

The nuclear power industry would also be required to make “an additional contribution” towards Germany’s efforts in building out renewable energy production.

The extension of the nuclear plants’ lifespan was needed to meet Germany’s carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions targets and to provide some “price stability” on energy markets, Merkel said in a media briefing.

The nuclear industry – as well as coal - would continue to have an important role as “bridge technologies,” she said.

Merkel said the government would seek to implement the plan without the Bundesrat, the upper legislative chamber that represents Germany’s states.

Merkel's ruling Christian Democrats-Liberal party coalition lost its majority in the upper house last month when a Social Democrat-Green Party coalition took office in Germany’s largest state, North Rhine-Westphalia.

North Rhine-Westphalia’s state prime minister Hannelore Kraft said the state would file a constitutional challenge should Merkel’s government circumvent the Bundesrat.

Meanwhile, a number of German cities and towns said the extension of nuclear power was jeopardising their investments in renewables.

However, a bioethanol industry group – Bundesverband der deutschen Bioethanolwirtschaft (BDB) – on Tuesday welcomed the government’s plan as it would pave the way for a higher ethanol quota in gasoline, it said.

Check out Doris de Guzman’s Green Chemicals Blog for views on sustainability issues
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By: Stefan Baumgarten
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