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Germany’s energy transition “biggest challenge since World War II”
How much should Germany’s “Energiewende,” a move towards ramping up renewable energy, cost? That question was the main sticking point at a lively debate on Wednesday between German Environment Minister Peter Altmaier (a member of the governing Christian Democratic Party) and the Green Party’s first state premier in Baden-Württemberg, Winfried Kretschmann. The discussion at the Hertie School of Governance was part of an ongoing series of events called “Re:Thinking Tomorrow.” The events are co-organized by Deutsche Welle, which is also a media partner.
The energy transition which involves phasing out nuclear and fossil fuels has sparked huge international interest and remains a hot-button issue in the country. In an interview with Global Ideas, Environment Minister Peter Altmaier said the transformation of Germany’s energy system “is the biggest challenge since the Second World War.” “It means a complete transformation of the backbone of Germany’s economy and business,” he added.
Altmaier went on to speak about the technical and financial challenges in scaling up renewables and phasing out nuclear energy as well as how Germany can build on its reputation as a pioneering power in green issues.
Both Altmaier and Kretschmann are considered political heavyweights when it comes to climate and environmental issues, which made for some amusing and lively verbal exchanges. Kretschmann began by accusing Altmaier of unsettling voters. “People already mix up millions and billions,” he said, adding “and now you are talking about trillions!” That elicited quite a few laughs from the audience. A few weeks ago, Altmaier had said Germany’s energy transition would cost energy consumers up to one trillion Euros if certain measures weren’t taken such as putting brakes on electricity prices.
Both participants agreed that Germany’s energy transition has to be an ecological and economic success if it is to find wide acceptance both within Germany and beyond. Germany may only be responsible for three percent of the world’s CO2 emissions, they argued. But if it managed to successfully pull off its ambitious energy transition project and move towards a low-carbon economy, it could offer vital lessons for big polluters such as China. That’s why, they stressed, it remains important not to jeopardize the energy project.
Kretschmann said the energy transition had already led to green growth with jobs and opportunities generated in the renewables sector. To keep things this way, Environment Minister Altmaier said brakes had to be put on electricity prices. The turnaround has to stay affordable for everyone, he added.
Kretschmann underlined the positive effects of the energy turnaround in the future. In the long run, consumers will pay less for electricity, Kretschmann argued, saying “the sun, after all, doesn’t send you any bills.”
DateMarch 14, 2013
Tagsaltmaier, baden württemberg, berlin, discussion, energiewende, energy task, energy transition, energy turnaround, forum, Germany, green party, hertie school, kretschmann, stuttgart