Environment Forum

Will Germany kill its energy golden goose?

January 20, 2010

Will Germany kill the goose laying the golden eggs?
  
GERMANY/Germany is understandably proud of its renewable energy sector — wind and solar power supply more than 15 percent of the country’s electricity. Its Renewable Energy Act (EEG) has fuelled its rapid growth over the past decade and been copied by more than 40 countries around the world.
  
But is the party over?
  
A new centre-right government announced plans to slash the EEG’s guaranteed feed-in tariffs (FIT) that utilities are required to pay the myriad of producers of solar energy, many of whom feed the modest amounts of solar power from their roofs into the local grid. The EEG already foresees a FIT decline of about 10 percent per year — a built-in incentive to keep overall costs falling.
  
Environment Minister Norbert Roettgen wants an additional 15 percent cut in April on top of the 10 percent from Jan. GERMANY/1, 2010 and ahead of the next 10-percent cut on Jan. 1, 2011. In the past decade, the previous two environment ministers from the Greens party and the centre-left Social Democrats (SPD) worked closely with the solar industry before making changes.
  
Roettgen made it clear those days of compromise were over. He said he spoke to solar firms last week before proposing the cuts, but rejected their offer to a one-off mid-2010 cut of 5 percent. “This is not a compromise,” he told journalists in Berlin on Wednesday. “It’s a bullseye.”  He said the cuts would save consumers about 1 billion euros a year over the next decade. Consumer groups and some industry groups had wanted deeper cuts, Roettgen noted.
  
Solar companies in Germany, which have until now worked closely with the government on reducing the tariffs the utilities pay to producers of green electricity, criticised the cuts which amount to about 35 percent within 13 months. They fear they will cripple the sector and kill jobs. Roettgen said he wants solar power, which now generates about 1 percent of Germany’s electricity, to be providing 4 to 5 percent by 2020 even though the support is being slashed by one-third in the course of 13 months. He portrayed the cuts as if he were doing the industry a favour.
   
Several leading German companies — such as SolarWorld, Q-Cells and Solon — said there were dark days ahead for the solar industry. They pointed out that prices, and support, were already falling steadily and would reach grid parity by the middle of the decade. Why, they asked, ruin a good thing? Frank Asbeck, CEO of Germany’s biggest solar company by revenue SolarWorld, called the plans unacceptable. As my colleague Christoph Steitz reported here, the cuts would cause problems for solar companies around the world.
  
Carsten Koernig, managing director of the BSW solar industry lobby, said “a radical cut like that will rob German companies of the foundation for business”.
  
Claudia Kemfert, an energy policy expert at the independent DIW economic research institute, said: “This level of 15 percent is quite problematic. It means a 25 percent cut within a few months and I consider that to be too much. It’s going to hit the small and medium sized companies very hard. It’s going to bring a lot of uncertainty into the market.”
  
The German Renewable Energy Association also used strong language, saying: “The radical cuts endanger the expansion of renewable energy.”

Auxiliary verbs at 10pm and the scarcest resource – sleep

December 17, 2009

CO2tonneThe issues are global and urgent, but the bureaucracy can sometimes be mind-bogglingly slow and petty.

from The Great Debate:

Climate skeptic: We are winning the science battle

December 14, 2009

- Dr. Fred Singer is the President of The Science & Environmental Policy Project and Professor Emeritus of environmental science at the University of Virginia. The views expressed are his own -

Forget polar bears, who will save the prostitutes?

December 11, 2009

Among the many messages sent out by politicians during the UN Climate Conference in Copenhagen, “Be sustainable — don’t buy sex” has to be one of the least expected. This was the advice circulated by Ritt Bjeregaard, the city’s mayor and a former EU Environment Commissioner, sent via postcard to all the hotels in the city to tell them to stamp down on conference-goers looking to patronise prostitutes on their premises.

Reporter’s video notebook: Day Four

December 10, 2009

Reuters environmental markets correspondent Gerard Wynn is at the United Nations Conference on Climate Change in Copenhagen. In this video log, he previews what to expect on the fourth day of talks.

Climate skeptics hold their own Copenhagen conference

December 9, 2009

With the world’s eyes firmly fixed on the U.N. Climate Conference in Copenhagen it is easy to forget that there remains a significant group of scientists and politicians who do not accept that humanity’s emissions of greenhouse gases are the primary cause of climate change.

Day Two: Reaction to the EPA

December 8, 2009

(Updated with comments from Dr. Gidon Eshel, physics professor, Bard College)

On the first day of the United Nations Conference on Climate Change in Copenhagen, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency cleared the way for regulation of greenhouse gases without new laws passed by Congress, reflecting President Barack Obama’s commitment to act on climate change.