Solarenergie-Förderverein Deutschland e.V. (SFV)

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14.08.2015, Rüdiger Haude:

Who are the "key stakeholders of the Energiewende in Germany"?

Concerning the "Who is who" of the German Federal Government

Please note: Moste of the links below lead to pages in German language.

If you notice linguistic errors in my use of a foreign language, I would be very thankful to receive hints regarding possible optimization:

The German federal government has issued a brochure in July 2015, the aim of which is to communicate the German energy transition on a worldwide scale: The "Who is who of the Energiewende in Germany". The Federal Foreign Office in Berlin acts as publisher, having closely cooperated with the Ministry of Economics. The preface is signed by the two ministers, Frank-Walter Steinmeier (SPD) und Sigmar Gabriel (SPD).

This 90 page brochure claims in the first place to present the „key stakeholders of the Energiewende in Germany, their tasks, functions and fields of work“ (p. 5) to an international audience. Who are those „key stakeholders“? They are, first, governmental institutions – Federal Ministries, Federal Authorities, and associations of local authorities (the federal states' governments have their own chapter at the end of the brochure). Second comes the economy, with sub-chapters comprising transmission network providers, lobby groups and associations, energy agencies, and financing and electricity market institutions, respectively. Third come so-called "society" groups, subdivided into research institutions, NGO's, and foundations connected to political parties. All in all, the brochure lists 158 stakeholders who are credited as being "key".

Characteristic omissions

How is this selection to be evaluated? Characteristic omissions are conspicuous. To be sure, it's an appropriate decision to leave out particular corporations, even though there are some that have earned their merits by fostering the energy transition (while others - like energy giant RWE - falsely claim to have done so).

It seems more astonishing that the entire field of universities is missing in the „Who is who of the Energiewende“. Does the federal government believe that the energy transition doesn't have anything to do with non-corporation research, or with teaching, or with the education of young academics?

Certain other omissions raise the suspicion that they follow a political intention. This is most obvious in the chapter about „Civil stakeholders (NGOs, ThinkTanks)“, where the following nine institutions are presented:

  • 100 prozent erneuerbar stiftung
  • Agora Energiewende
  • BUND - Friends of the Earth Germany
  • DFBEE - German-French Office for Renewable Energies
  • Germanwatch
  • Greenpeace
  • NABU - German Nature and Biodiversity Conservation Union
  • vzbv - Federation of German Consumer Organisations
  • WWF - World Wide Fund For Nature (p. 73-77)

Without a doubt most of these organizations are very commendable. But why does the "vzbv" appears in this list, to which we owe such enchanting headlines like „Electricity tariffs in danger – the EEG-Umlage (apportionment of feed-in-tariffs) is to be blamed" (Aug. 7, 2012) – while the "Bund der Energieverbraucher" (association of energy consumers), being much more competent in the field of energy politics, remains unmentioned? The latter had, in the same summer (July 24, 2012), rejected the notion that „the advancement of renewable energies made the electricity tariffs explode, or endangered the competitiveness of German companies". If expertise wasn't the criterion for this choice - might it have been the political attitude?

The "Solarenergie-Förderverein Deutschland" (German Association for the Promotion of Solar Energy) who, after all, had developed the idea of a cost-covering feed-in-tariff in the first place, and brought it to life on a communal scale in the 90s, is not counted among the "key stakeholders of the Energiewende in Germany". Of course, this offends us. However, we're in good company. "Eurosolar", that eminent pressure group for a more courageous energy transition, originating from the initiative of the upright Social Democrat, Hermann Scheer, and organizing important international conferences on this topic nowadays, is missing as well. Campaigning networks like "Campact" or ".augestrahlt", without whose mobilizations there would have probably been no second decision for a nuclear phase-out in 2011, are searched for in vain. The „International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War“ (IPPNW) who have long since been engaged against the commercial use of nuclear power, as well as against climate change, are also absent. The climate campaigners of "Robin Wood" or "urgewald" – far from it!

Foxes in charge of the henhouse

Instead, we (and particularly you, esteemed international readers) are supposed to consider the „Rheinisch-Westfälisches Institut für Wirtschaftsforschung“ (RWI) as a key stakeholder of the Energiewende. That RWI itself writes in its self-portrayal that „Renewable energies“ are part of its portfolio (p. 68). Usually, the RWI demands a (demonstrably false) „quota approach“ for the energy transition, while from time to time referring to studies biased by privileges, for instance on behalf of American Big Oil or Big Coal corporations. RWI supports the „Initiative Neue Soziale Marktwirtschaft“ (INSM) which is fighting the Energiewende tooth and nail, and RWI is further affiliated with the German coal-and-nuke corporation RWE in multiple ways.

Again, we are supposed to accept the „Bundesverband der Energie- und Wasserwirtschaft“ (BDEW) as a key stakeholder of the German Energiewende (p. 30). The BDEW is the pivotal lobby organization of the traditional energy industry. With its chairwoman Hildegard Müller (CDU), former head of the Berlin chancellery under Angela Merkel (CDU), it torpedoes each and every measure that might be taken to accelerate the energy transition – most recently, the proposal of minister Gabriel to impose a "climate toll" on old lignite-fired power stations.

To sum it up: The selection of Energiewende "stakeholders" in the brochure of the two ministries may not be entirely one-sided, but it displays a significant tendency towards 'Big Coal' which is not at all conducive to the energy transition in Germany. What might be the motivation behind this approach? The two ministers state in their preface:

"The Energiewende is exerting a wide-ranging impact on all spheres of people in Germany's lives. We will only be successful, however, if we tackle the Energiewende as a restructuring task involving the whole of society, in which everybody takes an active part with their strengths and expertise." (p. 5)

That may be so. But if the strengths and expertise of powerful anti-Energiewende lobbies are included, while at the same time most of the important groups who support the Energiewende (scholarly as well as politically) aren't even taken notice of, then the "restructuring task involving the whole of society" seems not to be on the right track.

This leads to subsequent problems which might prove fatal in a tactical sense: Steinmeier and Gabriel want to foist the brake shoe of European coordination on the German Energiewende:

"Here it is the case that the Energiewende can only succeed in close collaboration with our European and international partners." (p. 5)

The German version of the brochure uses the term "Schulterschluss" (closing of ranks) here. But such a closing of ranks is the perfect negation of the perception:

"The term Energiewende has already become a dictum in international energy discourse. We are seeing a growing interest from abroad in our energy policy and this is what we are addressing in our brochure." (p. 5)

This observation presupposes that Germany has been leading the way in the politics of energy transition (until the preceding and the present federal governments started to reduce the promotion of the Energiewende). Such a pioneering role cannot be taken if one obligates oneself to "close ranks" at the same time: Either you are ahead of your partner, or you are besides him; you cannot be at both places at the same time.

Do you have to bring the adversary on board?

The option for "closing ranks“ is connected to an undamped centralistic point of view that now takes on a European dimension. Accordingly, in an introductory text following the preface, the economic misjudgment, "large amounts of green power" needed to be "transported from the wind-rich north to the south and west", is immediately repeated with an international scope:

"The larger the common market, the better fluctuating supplies of wind and solar energy can be compensated. Nevertheless, an internal European market can only function if energy flows to where it is needed. However, there is not yet sufficient capacity available in existing power and gas lines." (p. 8)

Other wrong decisions of the federal government are also being painted as successful measures in this short introductory text: exonerations of energy-intensive corporations from the apportionment of feed-in tariffs; or "market integration" by bidding processes. This procedure borders on denial of reality, when it is said about the latest modification of the Renewable Energies Act (EEG) that it had "enabled the development of renewable energies to proceed rapidly - well managed and in a cost-effective manner" (p. 7) This is said by the very government that has managed to press the monthly growth of photovoltaics in Germany under 100 MWp - barely a sixth of the realized numbers in 2010 to 2012, and barely half of the self-proclaimed "growth corridor", which is already grossly under-designed. Perhaps, a specific German Social Democrat interpretation of the term "proceed rapidly" unveils itself here ...

In such distortions, the tragic of the strategic decision to take "everybody" on board reveals itself – notwithstanding all the nice assertions about the „model function“ (p. 5) of the German Energiewende. In its fervor to take the losers of the Energiewende on board, the federal government by and by shoves over board its supporters. But it can never make winners out of the losers, without gambling away the Energiewende.

It's a sort of disservice, when the federal government tenders as a model to countries abroad what it believes to be the Energiewende. We can only hope that parties from abroad intrigued by the German Energiewende continue to contact such experts who analyze the practice of the current federal government as what it is, namely a program of demolition.

This is because it's not enough to ask "Who is who?", but also: "What's their agenda?"

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