Germany’s economic affairs minister, Sigmar Gabriel, is facing vigorous opposition to his proposal for power plants to pay a new climate protection fee.

The fee is targeted at the country’s older power plants, but has met with vocal opposition in eastern regions where dependency on lignite coal for energy and employment is still strong.

Gabriel is motivated in helping Germany meet its climate target of a 40 per cent CO2 reduction by 2020. The document includes plans to require the oldest and most inefficient coal-fired power plants to pay the fee.
Sigmar Gabriel
Euractiv reports Brandenburg’s state prime minister Dietmar Woidke as saying that “the Economic Affairs Ministry’s plans will create significant insecurity in the energy sector and the entire German industrial sector”. Climate protection can only be executed successfully, he explained, if actions are globally coordinated.

“But a model that eliminates many thousands of jobs in Germany will not be copied internationally,” Woidke said, speaking in the Bundesrat, the legislative body in which Germany’s 16 regions are represented at the national level.

Saxony’s centre-right Minister-President, Stanislaw Tillich, said that in light of the existing system of certificate trading at the European level, this will create a double burden for German power plants, and also questioned its compatibility with EU law.

He warned against a national solo effort, pointing to the roughly 10,000 jobs dependent on the lignite power plant in Lausitz alone. Numerous power plants would have no more future, he predicted, leading to higher energy prices as a result.

Gabriel met with regional ministers to discuss the subject late last week and is giving them the opportunity to draft alternative proposals by the end of April. The federal states of Saxony, North-Rhine Westphalia and Brandenburg have now planned to form a working group with the Federal German Economic Affairs Ministry.

Wolfgang März, CEO of the Chamber of Industry and Commerce in Magdeburg said the plan would threaten the country’s security of supply.

“A simultaneous exit from nuclear and coal power is simply impossible or else linked to catastrophic effects,” he warned. Politicians are forgetting lignite’s significant contribution to the current security of supply, März said.

He added that an increase in the cost of coal power in Germany is more likely to lead to importation of cheaper coal power from Poland and the Czech Republic, rather than drawing from more efficient but more expensive gas power plants. As a result, März said, the proposal would have almost no effect.