Critics blast German coalition plans to limit RE expansion

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Renewable energy and environmental groups are up in arms after Germany’s incomong new government announced plans to limit the expansion of renewable energy in the country.

Chancellor Angela Merkel’s ruling Christian Democrats (CDU) and the Social Democrats reached a coalition agreement on Wednesday to form a new government.

The new coalition, which has yet to officially form a new government, has announced plans to slightly increase but also cap current renewable energy targets.

Under the new government, the share of renewable energy would increase to up to 45% by 2025. The government is to set a legally defined "corridor" of between 40% and 45%. That range will increase to between 55% and 60% by 2035, a level closer in line to the CDU’s proposed limit than to the SPD, which had previously called for a requirement of 75% by 2030.

The previous government under Merkel had set a 2020 target of at least 35%. The current share of renewable energy in Germany is nearly 25%.

Despite the higher target, the coalition agreement has faced fierce criticism from proponents of renewable energy and environmental groups who say the country’s energy transition will be thwarted by the proposed regulations.

The German Renewable Energy Federation (BEE ) criticized the 40% to 45% renewable energy cap in 2025, saying it is from its perspective an error in energy and environmental policy. As a result, said BEE President Fritz Brickwedde, Germany will miss its climate protection targets in the coming years.

A 45% cap would mean an addition of renewable energies by an average of only 1.67% a year while a 40% share would mean only 1.25% growth a year. In the past five years, the development of renewable energy in Germany has been 2% on average, according to the BEE. "So you see: the grand coalition is slamming the brakes on the energy transition," Brickwedde said.

Also disappointing for the Renewable Energy Federation is that the no mention is made of transportation and thermal energy measures in the coalition agreement. The BEE backs tax incentives for building renovations and also calls for more concrete steps to curb industrial privileges currently offered by Germany’s renewable energy law.

"Grand coalition for large power companies"

Friends of the Earth Germany (BUND) blasted the plans in much harsher terms: "The coalition agreement is not capable of ensuring the protection of our livelihoods. Not only will the expansion of renewable energy be significantly slowed, but the contract contains neither a climate bill nor a ban on the cultivation of genetically modified plants," said BUND Chairman Hubert Weiger.

Weiger said he fears that energy transition stakeholders will have even more difficulty in the future to compete against rivals. "In order to stop taxpayer money from being squandered by the billions for the coal industry and for questionable transportation investments, protests must increase,” said Weiger. "This coalition agreement threatens four years of grand coalition for large power companies."

Weiger said he sees the significant deceleration of the expansion of renewable energies as especially dangerous: In southern Germany, wind energy development could come to a complete halt and measures to reduce energy consumption are sorely lacking. Coal power plant subsidies, on the other hand, would be made available.

"The CDU, CSU [the CDU’s Bavarian affiliate party] and SPD are unfortunately stepping full on the brakes of the energy transition," Weiger said.

Nevertheless, a clear majority of parliamentary candidates have called for the acceleration of the energy transition and increased citizen participation.

"Energy revolution turned on its head"

The environmental organization Greenpeace likewise denounced the pact. The coalition agreement is putting the energy transition in chains and at the same time sealing the end of Germany’s leading role in climate protection, said Stefan Krug, head of Greenpeace’s political unit. "The establishment of a ‘legally set development corridor’ for renewable energy is nothing more than a cap for clean energy. At the same time the coalition guarantees the continued operation of harmful coal-fired power plants. It’s turning the idea of the energy revolution on its head."