March 31, 2023

Germany Holds Talks on National Energy Strategy

Until now, each state has drawn up and worked from its own plan for the expansion of renewable resources in its territory, often in conflict with one another. On the federal side, there is no single leader for the project to increase reliance on renewable energy to at least 35 percent by 2020. Instead, responsibilities are divided between the ministries of the environment and the economy, with the education minister responsible for financing research on renewable energy and storage technology.

The opposition Social Democratic Party has pounced on the weakness in the Merkel government’s signature project ahead of national elections next year, while widespread public support for the plan faces strains from a nearly 50 percent jump in a consumer tax for the transformation next year.

“Germany’s energy transformation is threatened with collapse due to the inability of the government” to draw up a master plan, Hubertus Heil, a leading Social Democrat, said before Friday’s meeting.

Germans’ relationship to nuclear energy is deeply emotional, rooted in the antinuclear protest culture of the 1970s and memories of radioactive mushrooms and wild game in Bavarian forests that resulted from the 1986 meltdown in Chernobyl.

It would be a severe blow to Ms. Merkel and her Christian Democrats if the project, passed last year by her center-right government in the wake of the Fukushima nuclear disaster in Japan, were to fail. On Friday, she pledged to work with the states through a national dialogue on how best to move forward.

“Germans can be assured that we feel committed to the goal of energy transformation,” Ms. Merkel said after the meeting. “I felt a spirit that we all want, and perhaps can, achieve this.”

Torsten Albig, a Social Democrat who is governor of Schleswig-Holstein, also praised the discussions as “a considerable step forward” toward reaching a master plan by March.

His northern coastal state, along with Lower Saxony, has been criticized for expanding offshore wind energy at such a rapid pace that turbines have had to be switched off on exceptionally windy days, because they produce more energy than the grid can handle.

Ultimately, Ms. Merkel would like to see the energy generated by wind farms in the north transmitted to the power-hungry industrial south. A plan to expand Germany’s grid with that aim, which would require about 500 miles of new power lines and other major upgrades, is to go before Parliament next month.

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