Interview

“People now expect Germany to be able to act more decisively”

The debate on the EU’s 2030 energy and climate targets continues, and the new German government must also decide what strategy it wishes to pursue in the future. Oliver Geden, an EU energy and climate policy expert at the German Institute for International and Security Affairs (SWP) in Berlin, talks to new energy about the opportunities and challenges of defining the EU’s common energy and climate targets for 2030.

new energy: The grand coalition has now been formed, and the politicians in charge of driving forward the switch to renewables in Germany have started their work. What do other countries expect of this new German government?

Oliver Geden: In general, it’s fair to say that a lot of people at the European level were concerned about the two German ministries in charge of energy and climate policy – the economics and environment ministries – being at odds with each other so often during the last legislative period, and about certain processes stalling as a result. They now expect Germany to be able to act more decisively. These hopes of Germany returning to a more proactive role in EU energy and climate policy also hark back to Germany’s EU presidency in 2007, when the combination of Angela Merkel as chancellor and Sigmar Gabriel as environment minister led to agreement on the 2020 targets. There is thus a lot of optimism, especially in light of the letter to the European Commission signed by Sigmar Gabriel and his counterparts in seven other member states, calling for a binding renewables target.  Other countries are keen to see how Germany’s switch to renewables will impact on EU energy policy in future. That does not necessarily have anything to do with the change in government, however.

new energy:  Do you think that Germany will continue to lead from the front when it comes to expanding renewable energy capacity, or will it gradually fall into line with the EU’s less ambitious expansion targets?

Oliver Geden: I assume that Germany will continue to call for a binding renewables target for the entire energy sector, and that it will be among the countries calling for a more ambitious target during negotiations. However, it remains to be seen to what extent Germany will bring its plans into line with those at the EU level. I certainly see it as a possibility that the German government will choose a renewables expansion strategy that is relatively independent of the one generally favoured by other European member states. The situation is more problematic when it comes to climate policy, however. Germany may be one of the countries that is calling for and has the most ambitious targets, but it is not succeeding in achieving them.

This is an abridged version of the interview – the full text is available in new energy issue 01/2014

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