Germany Failing to Reach Climate Targets – "This Wouldn't Have Happened with Natural Gas!"

February 16, 2018

The coalition agreement between the CDU/CSU and SPD political parties has sorely exposed that Germany will miss its own climate targets for 2020. This is exactly what energy policy and energy industry experts have been warning about for years. "This has long been in the offing," says Mario Mehren, CEO of Wintershall. "Germany has gone completely astray on route to a green future. This can be summed up quite simply: This wouldn't have happened with natural gas." He said that flawed market incentives have instead perverted the idea of the energy transition. "Today Germany is exporting significant amounts of coal to neighboring countries ‒ even at negative prices. This is grotesque in terms of climate policy," writes Mehren in a guest article for the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung (Friday edition, 16 February).

“Although Germany has invested heavily in the expansion of renewable energies in recent years, the climate protection successes are less than hoped for. Since 2009, CO2 emissions in Germany have remained almost unchanged at around 750 million tons per year. "We’re seeing an energy transition that costs a lot, but unfortunately brings little," says Mehren. That's because politicians are focusing heavily on the electricity sector and neglecting the huge savings potential in the heating market and for mobility and transport. Another reason: The focus has been wrongly placed even within the electricity market. For example, following the nuclear phase-out Germany has to a large extent replaced nuclear power with coal power. "This absurdity has reached such proportions that Germany is exporting coal-fired power as surplus production," criticizes Mehren. According to a report from ERA Energy Research, Germany's annual export surpluses have increased almost ninefold since 2011 to 54 terrawatt hours. That is, according to ERA, as much electricity as is generated by the five largest German nuclear power plants together.

Grotesque climate policy

In recent years, Germany has generated about 40 percent of its electricity from coal. By contrast, natural gas power plants, which are significantly more decentralized and flexible, have a share of just over 10 percent. Lignite produces three times as much CO2 when combusted than natural gas, which is the most climate-friendly fossil energy source.

"Such a climate policy doesn't make any sense. The basic idea of the energy transition was originally another, namely to replace nuclear and coal with renewables and natural gas," writes Mehren in the FAZ article. Here, natural gas would always provide flexible energy whenever the wind and sun fail to supply sufficient power. "But flawed market incentives have ensured that investments in modern gas-fired power plants have been delayed and that the climate targets have been pushed into the distant future. We should therefore urgently return to the original idea behind the energy transition and utilize natural gas for climate protection – and this should be done in equal measures for electricity, heating and mobility. Here Germany must play all its trump cards," writes Mehren.

"Happy birthday Gazprom!"

In order to secure the supply of natural gas, Germany and the EU