November 20, 2007
Europe, Germany, U.K.

Germany at odds with UK on renewable goals

Germany wants European states to meet their own renewable energy targets as much as possible, rather than pay other countries to do it for them, deputy environment minister Matthias Machnig said.

Britain favours the latter trading approach.

Both Germany and Britain see huge economic opportunities in the fight against climate change, and a chance to make the 27-nation European Union more energy independent and efficienct as it tries to cut carbon emissions.

But the sharing out of tough, EU-wide targets to install renewable energy by 2020 could spark quarrels.

While EU leaders agreed in March to get a fifth of its energy from renewable sources like the wind, sun and wood by 2020, they have to decide next year how to split the goal between them.

“There will be a debate, they’re very ambitious targets,” said Machnig, state secretary for the Environment, Nature Conservation and Nuclear Safety.

“It’s a huge way to go,” he said, referring to Germany’s goal to get 18-19 percent of its energy from renewable sources by 2020, versus some 4.8 percent in 2005.

“Great Britain should have an ambitious target as well,” he added. Britain hasn’t yet stated a renewable energy goal for 2020, but said in May that under present policies it would reach 5 percent renewables.

British Prime Minister Gordon Brown said on Monday that Britain would have to fundamentally change the way it gets its energy, to curb emissions of the heat-trapping greenhouse gas carbon dioxide, a by-product of burning coal, oil and gas.

Brown added on Monday he was very open to a trading approach whereby Britain could reach its renewable energy target by paying other countries to install green electricity there, seen a more flexible approach but one not favoured by Germany.

“The aim wasn’t to allow companies to buy (their targets),” said Machnig, of the EU’s decision in March. “The thinking was every country should reach a certain amount of renewables.”

The world’s leading solar power, Germany pays households a premium to generate their own electricity, for example from solar panels – called a feed-in tariff – and is worried that a trading approach would weaken that domestic effort.

Machnig suggested a compromise whereby Germany could sell green certificates, but only after it had achieved its national target.

Both Britain and Germany see huge potential in the fight against climate change, as investors pour billions of dollars into new energy and water technologies and markets.

Germany expected environmental markets to account for a fifth of its national wealth, or GDP, by 2025, said Machnig. Brown cited estimates that in Britain such markets were already worth 25 billion pounds and employed 400,000 people, and could employ one million by 2030.

By Gerard Wynn


19 November 2007

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