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Energy policies. Interests faced

31 August 2017

Any country, developed or not, has to manage today and tomorrow its energy policy.

Any country, developed or not, has to manage today and tomorrow its energy policy.

It happens that this policy, while played at national level and not only worldwide, has to "manage" simultaneously different interests, always partial or part (private), and on multiple occasions (usually always) faced. What are these interests?

  •  First, it has to ensure its citizens a daily energy contribution to meet daily needs. That is to say, it has to ensure some energy minima that become the electricity of the washing machine and the gasoline of the automobile. If you do not get them by your own means, you will have to import them, with the consequent increase in spending.
  • It has to ensure that its industry remains competitive with respect to the outside, for which the government of the day will have to offer energy that is not excessively expensive, which would prevent competitiveness.
  • To the extent that it is engaged in international environmental agreements, it will have to try to reduce the levels of atmospheric pollutants, mainly the famous GHGs. And this will largely lead to policies on coal (in the particular case where the country has mines of this type, such as in Germany and Spain).

It happens that the energy policy of this country (Germany) became the mascherón of all the positions and illusions, "green" environmental ecologists. The current US refusal to sign the Kyoto agreements on climate change and global warming has once again put on the table the enormous importance of global energy policy.

Should Europe continue to maintain its renewables programs, while the Americans openly state (we understand that to protect their industry) do not respect the Kyoto agreements? Should Europe continue to respect the idea of ​​non-polluting energy, while its industry has to compete with another that does not respect it?

Undoubtedly "everyone" would agree that we must reduce CO2 levels. We all breathe and everyone is affected by the floods. But how do we achieve that goal and secure it in that motley "vector field of forces" that are the different interests at stake? Vital interests and health, daily needs, environmental interests, commercial interests, economic, governmental, inter-country competition, etc.

On the other hand, what about nuclear? The same happens with fossil sources, which have great advantages and great disadvantages.

It is known that Angela Merckel decided, after the Fukusima accident in Japan, to decrease until closing the different nuclear plants of the country. It was one of the great arguments that turned this country into the focus of other countries (mainly Europeans) in energy policy.

And it is for this reason that the German energy policy will decide what the future of European energy policy will be. The importance, positioning and economic size of this country will determine, together with the policies already undertaken, what will be the paths that European citizens will travel in a more or less near future.

Put another way, it will be crucial for the viability of the European "green" project (energiewende: transition or energy revolution), the decision that this country takes, regarding the composition of its future mix.
But Europeans are not alone.

From fiasco and lack of encouragement the German energy policy is described by the American press. It is evident that Americans have their own ideas. We chose one of the headlines that feed the article:
"By favoring solar energy, Berlin would be choosing the energy source that most exacerbates the problems of energy transformation. It is the most expensive "

This very current Atlantic debate has reopened the role to play by important lignite mines (brown coal pollutants) of the Nord Rhein Westphalen
In this regard, the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries, Food and Environment of the Spanish Embassy in Germany, issued the following statement (link)
"In November 2015, the German government agreed on the so-called" climate reserve ". Eight lignite-fired power plants will be maintained during a transitional phase of four years as production units "in reserve" (to ensure electricity supply) until their final disconnection from the grid by 2020.

The agreement foresees that, between 2016 and 2019, the three RWE, Vattenfall and Mi-brag companies will gradually disconnect from the grid several plants located in the lignite production regions of Rhineland and East Germany, with a capacity of 2.7 gigawatts. The "lignite stock" is expected to contribute between 11 and 12.5 million tonnes to the reduction of CO2 emissions.

According to the Federal Ministry of Economics, utilities (RWE, Vattenfall and Mibrag) will receive as compensation to apply the "near-closure" of their plants about 230 million euros over seven years, ie in total about 1.610 million Euros With a consequent increase in kilowatt-hour costs by 0.05 cents.

The Federal Government celebrates the agreement with the electricity companies as an important contribution to the fulfillment of the climatic objectives ".

Three are, today, the pillars-sources of the Teutonic mix:

  1. Coal
  2. Nuclear
  3. Renewables

Mix energético alemán 2006

Fuente: Elaboración propia con datos de Destatis Statistischen Bundesamtes.

Following the commitments made since 1997, Germany:

A) It has reduced the consumption of coal and of nuclear.
The role of coal has been changing downwards, although it still plays an important role in the composition of the mix (40% in 2016).
In 2013, 45% of German electricity generation was generated by burning this fuel, the highest level since 2007, and CO2 emissions, which had fallen by 27% between 1990 and 2011, increased again.
The contribution of nuclear decreases from 28% in 1990 to 13% in 2016.
The decision to cancel nuclear power plants by the year 2022 explains much of the reactivation of coal consumption.
B) The consumption of renewables has increased.
The contribution of renewables grows from 4% in 1990 to 29.5% in 2016.
This European nation is the third largest power in renewable energies (excluding hydroelectricity), with the third position in wind energy and biodiesel and fifth in geothermal energy.
In addition, it has become famous, for having the largest capacity per inhabitant in solar photovoltaic energy.
But it is this high level of coal consumption (in its two versions: brown-lignite and hard), 40% of the mix in 2016, the data that will have to manage the Energiewende in a field bristling with thorns.

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