Bavaria threatens Merkel over energy policy

In a direct challenge to Chancellor Angela Merkel on Wednesday, Bavarian State Premier Horst Seehofer warned that his state will go it alone if the government doesn’t speed up the nuclear phase-out.

Bavaria threatens Merkel over energy policy
Photo: DPA

Seehofer’s threat was published in the Süddeutsche Zeitung just hours before Merkel was due to meet with the state premiers to discuss Germany’s ambitious plan to decommission all nuclear power stations by 2022 and make up the energy shortfall with renewable sources.

The comments follow criticism from industry and business heads who say the energy transition is in urgent need of a clear plan and tighter coordination between the state and the regional governments, wrote Stern newspaper.

If the nation’s “most important domestic project” doesn’t get off the ground soon, Seehofer told the Süddeutsche Zeitung, he will push for a return to the old system, under which former state-owned utility company Bayernwerk supplied Bavaria’s electricity.

“We’ll found a [new] Bayernwerk,” he told the paper.

The comments are the more incendiary because Seehofer is head of the Christian Social Union, the Bavarian sister party and coalition partner to Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union.

Seehofer also said it was vital that Bavaria became self-sufficient in its energy needs. “We want to produce the energy needed in Bavaria in Bavaria,” he added.

Last year the Bavarian state government decided the state would decommission its nuclear plants by 2022. The original plan had been to double the share of energy generated from wind and hydro sources to 50 percent of the state’s energy needs.

The rest would have come from conventional energy sources – including 5 new gas plants. Seehofer said Bavaria could revise its own energy plan, relying less on gas powered stations and more upon a large number of small bio-fuel plants to bridge the gap.

The bio-fuel plants – which would run on manure and agricultural waste from Bavaria’s many farms – could generate up to 2,000 megawatts of energy, around half the amount needed to make up the shortfall from the decommissioned nuclear plants in the state.

“I think that’s realistic,” said Bavaria’s Agriculture Minister Helmut Brunner whom Seehofer has tasked with checking the plan in detail, reported the paper on Wednesday.

As it stands, Germany’s historic experiment – which is being keenly watched by the rest of the world – is in danger of faltering. The energy industry has been slow to invest in the necessary large-scale infrastructure changes, something Seehofer put down to a lack of financial incentives by the state.

“There is danger in delay,” Seehofer told the paper. He even demanded that politicians “work through the whole summer break,” to end the current stalemate.

Failure, however, is not an option. In fact, said the politician, it would spell “political meltdown” for Merkel’s government.

The Local/jlb

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Could the Norwegian government introduce a cap on energy prices? 

Due to soaring prices, the Norwegian government is mulling over several solutions, including a potential price cap for electricity and limiting energy exports abroad. 

Could the Norwegian government introduce a cap on energy prices? 

High energy exports in the last 12 months, low filling levels in Norwegian reservoirs and an uncertain energy situation around Europe have led to soaring electricity prices in southern Norway. 

Last year the government introduced a scheme whereby it covers 80 percent of consumers’ energy bills where the price rose above 70 øre/kWh. The portion of the bill under 70 øre is paid in full by households. The portion the government covers will increase to 90 percent in October. 

Critics have argued that the current scheme still leaves households struggling with their bills. As a result, Norway’s government has said it is mulling its options to curb energy bills.

Norway primarily depends on hydroelectric dams to help it meet its energy needs. Still, reservoirs in southern Norway have been at the lowest level for ten years, public broadcaster NRK reports. 

Low reservoir filling over the past year has conceded with record exports with higher prices on the continent, making sending power abroad an enticing proposition.

Recently, exports have fallen significantly, and the government is considering introducing a limit to reduce the possibility of energy rationing being introduced this winter. 

“Restrictions on the export of electricity to Europe may be one of the measures that is needed,” Elisabeth Sæther, state secretary at the Ministry of Oil and Energy, told NRK. 

Earlier this week, Prime Minister Jonas Gahr Støre ruled out completely shutting off exports to the continent. 

“It is a dangerous thought and will not serve us well. It could give us more expensive power and lack of power in given situations. We will hardly be able to import power when we need it without contributing to other countries when they need it. There is a reciprocity in this,” he told the newspaper Aftenposten earlier in the week. 

Sæther also told NRK that the government was weighing up putting a maximum price on energy but warned that it could have unforeseen consequences. 

“We are afraid that a maximum price means that more water is drawn into the reservoirs, which we need for the winter. It is a serious situation. We must prevent ourselves from getting into a situation where we lack enough power this winter,” she told the broadcaster. 

At the end of May, the state-owned Statnett announced that the supply situation in Norway might be under strain – in some scenarios – all the way up to and through the winter, especially if Southern Norway experiences drier than usual weather in the second part of the year.