Rösler welcomes mooted Gazprom expansion

German Economy Minister Philipp Rösler would welcome increased investment by controversial Russian gas giant Gazprom - a topic for Chancellor Angela Merkel's meeting with Russian president Dmitry Medvedev this week

Rösler welcomes mooted Gazprom expansion
Photo: DPA

Despite public misgivings about such business, Rösler told the Financial Times Deutschland (FTD) Gazprom would get a warm welcome from Germany’s business and economic top ranks.

“Openness to foreign investors is one of the reasons of our economic success in Germany,” he said.

“In principle I therefore welcome it when a Russian business like Gazprom is ready to become more involved in the German gas market.”

Last week German energy giant RWE said it would work towards closer cooperation with Gazprom, with the CEOs of both companies signing a declaration to this effect on Thursday.

The companies intend to negotiate forming a joint venture which would handle the currently-owned or to-be-built coal and gas power stations not only in Germany but also the UK and Benelux countries. A potential purchase of RWE shares by Gazprom is also being discussed, the FTD said on Monday.

Der Spiegel reported over the weekend that Merkel and Medvedev were set to discuss the planned cooperation during Tuesday’s governmental consultation meeting in Hannover.

The FTD said that there was significant opposition to the idea within local governments of districts where RWE is based.

Yet Rösler said there was great need for investment in Germany. “We stand before great challenges over the next few years, in order to manage the change in energy use,” he said, referring to the plan to make Germany nuclear free by 2022.

“Therefore we need above all, new capacity with gas power stations. It could be helpful if Gazprom becomes involved.”

Russia is already Germany’s most important gas supplier, accounting for 39 percent of Germany gas imports last year, according to the FTD.

Former Chancellor Gerhard Schröder controversially took a board job with a Gazprom subsidiary company not long after leaving office, during which he maintained notably friendly relations with then Russian President, now Prime Minister Vladimir Putin.

He has since taken up a seat on the board of Russian oil company TNK-BP and was recently in the frame for a Gazprom supervisory board position.

The Local/hc

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Sweden to stop local governments blocking wind parks in final stages

Sweden's government has proposed a new law which will remove local municipalities' power to block wind parks in the final stages of the planning process, as part of a four-point plan to speed up the expansion of wind power.

Sweden to stop local governments blocking wind parks in final stages

“We are doing this to meet the increased need for electricity which is going to come as a result of our green industrial revolution,” Strandhäll said at a press conference. 

“It is important to strengthen Sweden by rapidly breaking our dependence on fossil fuels, building out our energy production and restructuring our industry. The Swedish people should not be dependent on countries like Russia to drive their cars or warm their homes.”

“We are going to make sure that municipalities who say “yes” to wind power get increased benefits,” she added in a press statement. “In addition, we are going to increase the speed with which wind power is built far offshore, which can generally neither be seen or heard from land.” 

While municipalities will retain a veto over wind power projects on their territory under the proposed new law, they will have to take their decision earlier in the planning process to prevent wind power developers wasting time and effort obtaining approvals only for the local government to block projects at the final stags. 

“For the local area, it’s mostly about making sure that those who feel that new wind parks noticeably affect their living environment also feel that they see positive impacts on their surroundings as a result of their establishment,” Strandhäll said.  “That might be a new sports field, an improved community hall, or other measures that might make live easier and better in places where wind power is established.” 

According to a report from the Swedish Energy Agency, about half of the wind projects planned since 2014 have managed to get approval. But in recent years opposition has been growing, with the opposition Moderate, Swedish Democrats, and Christian Democrat parties increasingly opposing projects at a municipal level. 

Municipalities frequently block wind park projects right at the end of the planning process following grassroots local campaigns. 

The government a month ago sent a committee report, or remiss, to the Council on Legislation, asking them to develop a law which will limit municipal vetoes to the early stages of the planning process. 

At the same time, the government is launching two inquiries. 

The first will look into what incentives could be given to municipalities to encourage them to allow wind farms on their land, which will deliver its recommendations at the end of March next year. In March, Strandhäll said that municipalities which approve wind farm projects should be given economic incentives to encourage them to accept projects on their land. 

The second will look into how to give the government more power over the approvals process for wind projects under Sweden’s environmental code. This will deliver its recommendations at the end of June next year.