Germany’s revolutionary switch to renewable energies is stalling and the country’s new environment minister has now admitted as much by casting doubt on the ambitious goals set last year. Media commentators say that he and the rest of Chancellor Merkel’s government must do more.
Chancellor Angela Merkel outlined a grand vision for an energy revolution a year ago, shortly after her government had decided to shut down all nuclear reactors by 2022 in a spectacular about-face following the Fukushima accident.
Germany was to put itself at the forefront of the fight against global warming by radically expanding the use of renewable energy to 35 percent of total power consumption by 2020, rising to 80 percent by 2050. Currently, it represents 20 percent of the country’s energy mix.
But now two ministers, Environment Minister Peter Altmaier and Economy Minister Philipp Rösler, have cast doubt whether the targets are reachable and said their priority is to make sure that electricity prices don’t rise too much.
Altmaier, a close ally of Merkel who took over the ministry after his predecessor Norbert Röttgen was sacked in May, on Sunday cast doubt on whether Germany will be able to cut its energy consumption by 10 percent by 2020 as planned — a precondition for reaching the 35 percent renewables target that year.
“If we still want to manage that somehow it will take huge efforts,” he told Bild am Sonntag newspaper. Altmaier said his ministry had made mistakes, that there had been a lack of coordination and that forecasts for electricity prices had had to be revised. He even warned that the energy revolution could lead to social problems if prices rose too high. “For me it’s a priority that electricity remains affordable,” he told the paper.
He also questioned the country’s ability to reach its goal to introduce one million electric cars by 2020. As of the beginning of 2012, only 4,541 electric cars were in use, according to the German Federal Motor Transport Authority. “We may have far fewer electric cars than assumed so far,” said Altmaier.
Economy Minister Philipp Rösler echoed Atmaier on Tuesday, telling Bild newspaper: “The timeframe and the goals of the energy revolution are intact. But we will have to make adjustments if jobs and our competitiveness should become endangered.” He said it was a “top priority” that electricity should remain affordable for consumers and customers.
The similarity between the two ministers’ comments is noteworthy, as is the fact that two of Merkel’s top ministers are calling one of her government’s central projects into question a mere year after it was launched.