Report of the German Government Energy Tour April 24 – 30, 2016

by Feyisayo Fatona-Ajayi

Background

As part of deliberate efforts of Germany to promote renewable energy as well as deemphasize nuclear energy, the Federal Foreign Office of the Republic of Germany in partnership with Ecologic Institute organized a themed trip in commemoration of 30 years following the nuclear accident in Chernobyl.

Major objectives of the themed trip were as follows:

  • Converge a broad range of international participants to get a general overview of Germany’s energy transition
  • Provide first-hand information of the journey of renewable energy in Germany
  • Provide a cross cutting cultural experience where participants learn about Germany and its people.

The one week programme comprised of 17 participants from a total of 15 countries: Taiwan, Namibia, South Africa, Belarus, Nigeria, Hungary, Mexico, Bangladesh, Thailand, Korea, Russia, Angola, Slowakia, Japan and New Zealand

Day 1: Monday, April 25, 2016

The programme began on from 9am to 3pm with two major meetings:

  • Meetings at the Ecologic Institute
  • Topical Guided tour around Berlin with an emphasis on energy and energy-efficiency

Highlights are as follows:

1st Meeting at Ecologic Institute

The theme of the meeting was
“The Energy Transition in Germany – Background on German Energy and Climate Policy – History and European Context with a View on Chernobyl and Fukushima”.

Speaker: Andreas Kraemer, Founder & Director Emeritus of Ecologic Institute; Senior Fellow at the Institute for Advanced Sustainability Studies (IASS) in Potsdam, Germany

Major objectives of Andreas presentation included clarifying 3 myths around Germany’s transition to renewable Energy. These myths being that:

  • The resolve of government to close down its nuclear power is a knee jerk reaction to Fukushima. Andreas explained that the true position is that Germany’s anti-nuclear movement had started as far back as 1975. However, government continued to expand its nuclear programme well into the 80’s when Chernobyl occurred in 1986. Following Chernobyl, majority of Germans were concerned about the risks around nuclear technology. Most politicians began to stress thatnuclear was a “transient” technology but not the future, and after 1989 no new commercial nuclear power stations were built. Public protests continued in the 1990s, mostly against the transport of spent nuclear fuel elements to and from waste processing facilities and prospective waste storage sites (e.g. Gorleben and Schacht Konrad, Lower Saxony). By 2002, a nuclear consensus was agreed with big utilities. The consensus agreed to limit the lifespan of nuclear power stations to 32 years and to shut down all nuclear plants by 2020.
  • Germany would go bankrupt as a result of its energy transition. According to him, Renewable Energy has produced 400 billion Euros turnover in the economy and provided over 370,000 jobs till date. He noted that out of these figures, an estimated 150,000 represent net jobs and that majority of these jobs were created in the rural areas thus helping to stem rural-urban migration.
  • Germany’s Renewable Energy Transition is not sustainable and requires significant subsidies. Andreas explained that in the very early days, RE required subsidies, but that the sector has not worked with the aid of subsidies since 2004. He however noted that that there were frameworks and or incentives to de0risk the sector, but that these were not subsidies. It was stressed that Germany’s energy transition (Energiewende) is economically self-sustaining at this point, and that the long term sustainability of it makes RE replicable as well as scalable in many countries. Andreas sounded a note of caution, being that many countries would eventually be weaned off oil and nuclear power and as such, nations that solely depend on oil would find it difficult to survive.
  • Germany is alone in wanting to phase out nuclear power.

 Andreas concluded his presentation stressing the fact that the argument against RE is usually hinged on the following ideologies/philosophies:

  • Economic delusion – majorly canvassed by coal, nuclear and oil operators. Another group according to him are households who canvass on the platform of affordability.
  • Military intent
  • Corruption

According to him, the case of households and affordability had largely been addressed in the German society through the provision of social protection to households that would have had to pay higher bills on electricity as a result of RE.

2nd Meeting at Ecologic Institute

The theme of the meeting was “Presentation of key Elements of the German Energy Transition”.

Speaker: Daniel Argyropoulos, Agora Enegiewende

Highlights of Daniel’s presentation is as follows:

  • The Renewable Act of Germany is the primary policy instrument used to implement the transition.
  • The transition is not free and comes with a cost termed EEG surcharge that households pay.
  • Solar and wind energy have been identified as primary sources of RE in Germany
  • Wind has become a mature technology, with wind turbines of 2- 3 MW being standard
  • Solar PV costs have been falling dramatically from 2005 till 2015 with the entrance of Chinese technology into the space.
  • Wind and solar are cost competitive compared to all other newly built power plants.

Challenges of Enggiewende

  • The greatest challenge to Germany’s Energy transition is grid expansion.
  • Therefore, the power system and power markets will need to cope with a highly fluctuating power production from wind and solar.

Topical Guided tour around Berlin with an emphasis on energy and energy-efficiency

Tourer Guide: Ralf Wollheim

The tour combined showing participants around key areas of Berlin. Energy efficiency houses were shown, electric cars with charging points were also shown. See pictures below:

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Pic 1: Energy Efficient House in Berlin integrated with Solar PV panels and electric cars (used as a model).

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Pic 2: Inhabited Energy Efficiency House in Berlin. House is integrated with PV panels and includes a combination of glass to allow natural lighting and reduce the need to use electricity.

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Pic 4 & 5: Electrical car with charging point. The car runs on electricity and can run for 200km in the city before requiring charges.

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Pic 6: An office complex showing how the architecture ensures energy efficiency through none requirement for electricity during the day

Day 2: Tuesday, April 26, 2016

The programme began on from 8:45am to 7pm with major meetings outlined below:

  • Meetings at the Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy
  • Meeting with Deputy Director-General for Globalization, Energy and Climate Policy, Federal Foreign Office, Germany
  • Sightseeing walk through the government quarters
  • Meeting with the Chairwoman of the Parliamentary Committee on the Environment, Nature Conservation, Building and Nuclear Safety
  • Dinner Dialogue on Utility Business Model Innovation in the Context of the German Energy Transition

Highlights are as follows:

1st Meetings at the Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy – Part 1

The theme of the meeting was “The German Energy Policy – Energy system and the status of the energy transition”.

Speaker: Ursula Borak, Deputy Director for International Energy Policy

  • The German energy policy has three major objectives:
  • Secure and reliable
  • Affordablility and cost effectiveness
  • Environmentally sound

 

  • The pillars of the policy include:
  • Phase out of nuclear energy by 202
  • Market integration of RE and grid expansion
  • Energy efficiency

 

  • The key elements of these pillars are as follows:
S/N            Pillar Legislation/ Supporting fields of action                Output
1 Energy Efficiency Energy Saving Ordinance

Heating Cost Ordinance

• Increasing energy

productivity

• Cost-efficient savings

2 Renewable Energy Renewable Energy Sources Act

Renewable Energy Heat Act

• Steady growth

• Environmentally friendly

energy supply

3 Market and system

integration

Energy research and

Development

European energy and

climate policy

 

Policy targets of the German energy transition from 2020 to 2050 were outlined and summarized across reduction of greenhouse emissions, promotion of RE and Energy efficiency. These targets were put side by side with 2014 achievements.

Contribution of RE to the country’s energy mix was expected to increase to 35% by 2020, but as at 2015, Germany had achieved 32.5% thus indicating that its 2050 targets may be surpassed if all goes well. This is coming on the heels of an increase in use of RE from 10% in 2005 to 30% in the nation’s energy mix.

In terms of greenhouse emissions, Germany is expected to reduce its emissions by 40% in 2020, and as at 2014, it had achieved 27%.

The story is however not the same with energy efficiency which has witnessed low levels of achievement so far.

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  • Explaining that Renewables have overtaken each conventional source to become the largest electricity source in just ten years, Ursula, provided the following statistics:
S/N Breakdown of Energy Mix 2005 (%) 2015 (%)
1 Hard Coal 21.5 18.2
2 Nuclear Energy 25.2 14.1
3 Lignite 24.8 24.0
4 Gas 11.7 8.8
5 Renewable Energy 10.0 30.0
6 Oil & Other 5.8 0.8

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  • Benefits of RE and EE were outlined to include those highlighted in the infographic above.
  • Challenges of the energy transition were said to be categorized into four major themes:
  • Grids – requiring expansion to connect demand with supply.
  • Generation – requiring flexibility between thermal and renewables
  • Consumption – in terms of demand response
  • Storage – requiring more innovation along the lines of “power-to-heat”, “batteries”, “pumped storage” and “power-to-gas”
  • Ursula, noted that developing countries have now outpaced the developed countries in terms of adoption of renewable energy
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  • In concluding her presentation she noted the critical role played by the Government of Germany to promote and monitor the implementation of the energy transition.

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1st Meetings at the Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy – Part 2

The theme of the meeting was “Germany’s Energy Efficiency Policy”.

Speaker: David Lerach

David’s presentation centered on giving an overview of Energy Efficiency Policy Instruments and Strategies. Major highlights of his presentation are as follows:

  • EE policy instruments in Germany fall into four main categories:
  • Awareness – Through information and consultancy services e.g., government offers a wide range of services for citizens to know their energy consumption as well as offers information services on how citizens can be energy efficient. In most cases, government subsidizes the payment for these services.
  • Financial incentives – Government spends about 3 billion euros per annum in this regard. Two billion of this is earmarked for co2 building modernization programme, grant provision and very low interest rate loans. In addition, government offers a longer amortization period for loan repayment.
  • Regulation – Plays a significant role in terms of building codes, eco-design & labelling directive, energy audits in industry etc. Government equally provides incentives for market players who go above the minimum regulatory requirements.
  • Energy Tax – Higher taxation if you are not energy efficient
  • David explained that a key success factor of RE and EE in Germany is the building administration programme that is coordinated by KFW (German national Bank). KFW cooperates with retail banks to provide RE &EE loans such that a consumer does not approach KFW directly for household energy efficiency loan but does this through his or her regular retail banker.
  • Germany has a National Action Plan on Energy Efficiency called NAPE
  • The plan has three pillars:
  • Stepping up energy efficiency in buildings (using any of the earlier highlighted policy instruments)
  • Energy Efficiency as a return and business model
  • Individual responsibility for energy efficiency
  • All the measures under NAPE adhere to a common principle – supply information – provide support – demand action
  • The presentation ended with an outline of EE challenges as follows:
  • Rebound effects – EE gains being offset by acquisition of larger living spaces
  • Financial instruments for energy efficiency
  • Energy efficiency in an evolving energy system – sector decoupling and digitization

 

2nd Meeting with Deputy Director-General for Globalization, Energy and Climate Policy, Federal Foreign Office, Germany

This meeting was a lunch meeting at the Foreign Office where participants meet with the officials that jointly co-hosted with Ecologic institute.

During the meeting informal discussions were around energy issues in different participant countries and the role that different energy mixes play. A central discussion theme was on nuclear energy versus renewable energy.

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Pic 7: Cross-section of participants as we exited the Federal Foreign Office. The two women in the back dressed in formal wear are officials of the exchange programme.

 

3rd Meeting with the Chairwoman of the Parliamentary Committee on the Environment, Nature Conservation, Building and Nuclear Safety

Speaker: Barbel Hohn, Chairwoman of the Parliamentary Committee on the Environment, Nature Conservation, Building and Nuclear Safety and Member, of Parliament, Alliance 90/The Greens.

Major Highlights

  • Barbel, quickly went down history lane of Germany’s journey to renewables. She noted that the citizens of Germany had since the early 70’s and 80’s recognized the shortcomings of Nuclear energy and had formed an opinion about it long before now. She also hinted that she was part of the anti-nuclear movement from when she was a youth and that she is pleased with the strides Germany has made as a country in the promotion/implementation of Renewable Energy in its energy mix. She mentioned that Germany’s Political Green Party had always been the champion of RE.
  • She noted that a key legislation that has helped is Germany’s Renewable Energy Act which essentially guaranteed income for 20 years to individuals and companies that would setup RE plants. According to her, this meant that both individuals and companies could approach banks to borrow money to install Photo voltaic or wind plants
  • During the discussion Barbel mentioned that RE movement had faced so many socio-political challenges till date and that the most recent; an attempt by the Social Democrats and the Liberal Party to usurp gains that the Green Party had made so far is the recent introduction of taxes on rooftop photo voltaic plants (roof top solar). According to her, if this scales through, it would be a huge setback to the Energy transition programme of Germany. She highlighted that the true reason behind this political move is that the biggest voter constituent for the Social Democrats and the Liberal Parties are players in the coal sector. The party therefore hopes to use this tactic to secure votes in the forthcoming elections.
  • Further discussions centered round the current issues of nuclear waste disposal that has become a big problem in Germany in terms of the costs involved to decommission nuclear plants and what is to be done with radioactive wastes. She however noted that it is clear that Germany will never export its radioactive waste and as such continues to explore options for waste disposal of same.

4th Meeting – Dinner Dialogue on Utility Business Model Innovation in the Context of the German Energy Transition

This was an informal setting over dinner where representatives of Uniper and Vattenfall (two big energy utilities in Germany) came to share their perspectives on German’s Energy Transition.

In attendance were:

  • Peter Hohaus, Policy Advisor, Political Affairs and Corporate Communication, Uniper, Berlin
  • Benjamin Gorlach, Head, Economics and Policy Assessment, Senior Fellow, Ecologic Institute
  • Representative, Vattenfall

Major Highlights

  • Germany’s energy transition has not been easy on utility companies
  • Major challenges stem from the fact that government seems inconsistent with its policy in terms of rolling back on nuclear energy. There was an initial commitment to scale back in the early 2000s, but government later decided to extend time on nuclear and based on this understanding, additional investments were made by companies. However, government reneged on this extension following the 2011 Fukushima accident thus throwing the private sector into disarray.
  • Following from that fact that government is now set in its way regarding nuclear and coal many companies are distressed and as such are now exploring innovative business models.
  • Vattenfall for instance has had to sell off its nuclear business to the Czech Republic and even at that still faces considerable loss from the German market
  • Uniper on the other hand is a subsidiary of Eon. In order to realign with Germany’s energy transition, Eon commenced first by considering portfolio diversification and so had different sections – coal, nuclear, wind, solar etc. The next step in its innovation was to spin off a subsidiary called Uniper under which the so called dirty energy business is now concentrated while Eon now focuses mainly on renewable energy
  • Issues continue to persist around decommissioning of nuclear plans as the cost of decommissioning has risen astronomically from what was set aside when these plants were put up. Today, it costs as much to set up a nuclear plant as it costs to decommission it. Therefore, the big question remains: “Who is expected to bear the cost of decommissioning of nuclear plants – Government, the utility companies or German tax payers?
  • Further discussions were related to participant country scenarios around renewable energies and energy mix.

Day 3: Wednesday, April 27, 2016

The programme began on from 8:30am to 8pm with a field trip to Greifswald outside Berlin

The objective of the visit was to get first-hand information on decommissioning of nuclear reactors at the Greifswald Nuclear Power Plant

Theme: Nuclear Decommissioning, Dismantling and Waste Management in Germany

Speaker: Gudrun Olengerg, Deputy Head of public Relations

Major Highlights

  • EWN is the operator of Greifswald Nuclear Power Plant
  • Greifswald Nuclear Power Plant is a Russian type plant with eight (8) double units of reactors, a turbine hall, decontamination and water treatment facility, a warm workshop, an interim storage facility, and a power plant.
  • The first unit was commissioned in 1973, the fifth in 1989, the sixth reactor was completed but never used, the seventh and eight reactors were built up to concrete level but never completed as legislation to phase-out nuclear from Germany’s energy mix had been reached.
  • The decommissioning project has been carried out so far according to the following timelines:
  • 1990 – Shutdown of all units
  • 1991 – Decision for direct dismantling was reached
  • 1995 – Decommissioning license issued
  • 2006 – Fuel taken out of all operating reactors
  • 2009 – Dismantling of reactor pressure vessels completed
  • 2013 – Last large components dismantled
  • 2028 – Complete decontamination of buildings scheduled
  • Highly radioactive wastes are supposed to be transported to Konrad repository (government facility) for permanent storage, but it is not likely that Konrad will open before 2022
  • The decommissioning project required categorization of plant materials in to 3 categories (not contaminated, suspected and contaminated). This sorting indicated that 565,000 tons of material were deemed not contaminated while 1, 235,000 tons were either suspected to be contaminated or indeed contaminated (this is the radioactive waste that must be handled with utmost care to prevent radioactive pollution/poisoning).
  • The turbine hall has been fully dismantled and put to alternative use by a crane construction company
  • During the presentation, it was noted that Greifswald Nuclear Power Plant was a public sector plant and that no money was set aside for the decommissioning of the plant during its time of operation.
  • An initial cost of 4.18 billion Euros was planned by government to undertake the decommissioning project and 3.3 billion Euros has been spent so far. It is however expected that that 6.2 billion Euros would be required to complete the decommissioning project. The eventual amount to be spent is heavily dependent on the opening of Konrad (the repository that is being planned as the final resting point of radioactive waste).

Following the presentation and a series of questions and answers, a physical tour of reactor 6 was taken. Some pictures below and attached video:

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Pic 8: Showing when the Nuclear Plant was in operation

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Pic 9: Steam room of Reactor 6

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Pic 10: Outer Surroundings of the Nuclear Plant

 

Day 4: Thursday, April 28, 2016

The programme began on from 9:30am to 7pm with a field trip to Wendland outside Berlin

The objective of the visit was to get first-hand information on power generation from a Wind Turbine Facility. See pictures and attached videos.

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Pic 11: A Wind Park

  • Wendland was filled with Wind parks as well as a lot of rooftop solar installations on homes and industries.
  • However, Wedland is situated in the Northern part of Germany and wind power is the main concentration because this is where wind is a comparative advantage. There is on-shore wind generation as well as off-shore wind generation.
  • Wind Park ownership cuts across groups of individuals in the communities to formal corporate bodies.
  • The particular Wind park that was visited happened to be owned by 200 individuals in the community and the wind mills seen ranged in capacity from 600MW to 1.3MW. Each of them feeding directly into the power grid.
  • In the beginning, wind parks started sacrificially by small groups of individuals as a means to prove to government that renewable energy generation was doable. However, now with the Energy transition programme in place, it has now become a profitable business and investment opportunity that guarantees between 7 to 15% annual returns on investment.

In spite of the fact that the field trip was mainly for Wind, we saw solar installations and also visited a Biomas power production plant

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In spite of the fact that the field trip was mainly for Wind, we also visited a Biomas power production plant

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Day 5: Friday, April 29, 2016

The programme began on from 9:30am to 8pm with a field trip to Gorleben outside Berlin

The objective of the visit was to get first-hand information on citizens’ movements which had a significant impact on the anti-nuclear movement in Germany since the 1970s.

  • Gorleben is known as the site of a controversial radioactive waste disposal facility, currently used as an intermediate storage facility but planned to serve with the salt dome Gorleben as a future deep final repository for waste from nuclear reactors. It has attracted frequent protests from the community and environmentalists since the 1970s.
  • We met with various members of the movement who interacted with our delegation and provided insight into efforts of the various movements since the 70s.
  • In particular, we met with Andreas and Anna Von Bernstorff, who happened to be owners of very huge forest land that is earmarked for the disposal facility. Andreas inherited the land from his lineage and the land had remained in his family for several centuries.
  • In time past he had been offered $17 million US dollars to relinquish his ownership of the land for its intended use, but he had refused. Efforts were made by the government to confiscate the land, but Andreas in partnership with the Church institution sued government and won (only Andreas and the Church have legal ground to sue).
  • A visit was taken to the Gorleben archives too.

 

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Protest picture from the Archive

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Protest picture from the Archive

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Pictures from the Gorleben facility

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Our delegation returned to Berlin on the 6pm train and from there proceeded to the farewell dinner.

 

 

Implications for NESG’s Sustainability Policy Commission Work

Immediate pointers for the Sustainability Policy Commission and indeed our work with the JCU are as follows:

  1. Renewable Energy should be our key focus for energy mix advocacy
  1. We should work towards ensuring that the Nigerian government does not consider Nuclear power as an option. We need to create general awareness of the dangers of nuclear energy especially its waste disposal that is a problem in the West.
  1. Perhaps getting government to work on attracting private investment that allows solar panels and batteries to be manufactured in Nigeria. This would be the ultimate way to eliminate import duties and tax exemption constraints.
  1. Promotion of the use of renewable energy would require a coherent policy process and legislative process that gives RE a backbone in Nigeria.
  1. In putting the laws into place, an active role of a regulator needs to be ensured
  1. Awareness needs to be created for people to know that RE is not only solar, but wind, biomass, etc
  1. While some people think that Nigeria is not ripe for renewable energy on account of grid problems, our central message should be that Nigeria should concentrate on decentralized renewables energy generation.
  1. If numbers 5 and 7 are pushed properly, confidence in the sector would be built and we may just be set to see a transformation similar to what happened in the telecommunications sector.

Read more about the Visitors Programme…

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