ITN: “Prof Quaschning, operators of gas and coal-fired power stations in Germany are threatening to shut down their plants and the EU now wants to subsidise nuclear power. What has happened to the transition in energy policy?”
Prof. Volker Quaschning: “Only 5% of renewable energy generation plants belong to the four big German energy companies. So far they have refused to support the energy turnaround and have instead backed coal-fired power plants and extensions to the operative life of nuclear plants. The rapid expansion of renewable energy is undermining their strategy and hitting their profits. The companies are now trying to mount a political counterattack.”
ITN: “Do you think it is right to smooth the way to an energy transition with subsidies, payments and cost sharing?”
Prof. Volker Quaschning: “Energy from fossil fuels is subsidised around the world to the tune of more than 500 billion EUR each year. In Germany, too, producers of nuclear and fossil fuel based energy attract subsidies amounting to hundreds of billions of euros until now. There are other costs that should also be taken into account. The German Federal Environmental Agency estimates the damage caused by climate change to be 70 EUR for every ton of carbon dioxide emitted. Based on that estimate, the annual cost of climate change caused by coal-fired power stations in Germany amounts to around 20 billion EUR. Despite the cost of the energy transition it is still by far the cheaper option.
ITN: “Even renewable energy has an impact on the environment, just think of biogas for example. Do you agree with that?”
Prof. Volker Quaschning: “All forms of energy consumption have an effect on the environment. However, in comparison to the use of fossil fuels or nuclear power, that effect is much lower in the case of renewable energy.
ITN: “High energy costs in Germany are hitting small and medium size companies particularly hard. Only energy intensive companies are (for now) exempted from the Renewable Energies Act levy. Can we afford to continue imposing competitive disadvantages with regard to energy – particularly in comparison with the US and their low gas prices?”
Prof. Volker Quaschning: “Despite or perhaps even because of the high cost of energy, the German economy is in fairly rude health. High energy costs encourage innovation in the energy sector. Looking at the long term, those countries who have weaned their economy off fossil fuels first will be in the strongest position.”
ITN: “Prof. Volker Quaschning: With regard to shale gas. The controversial fracking law has been shelved for now. Do you think that shale gas production here and in Europe as a whole has a future?”
Prof. Volker Quaschning: “I don’t believe shale gas extraction is particularly useful or practicable. Resistance to the technique is lower in other European countries. The significance of shale gas in Europe will remain small.”
ITN: “Looking far into the future – let’s say at international energy supplies in 100 years’ time. Which energy sources will be dominant in Germany and the world?”
Prof. Volker Quaschning: “If we want an effective end to climate change and also preserve living standards for our children then our energy supplies must be CO2–neutral by the middle of the century. It is possible for Germany to meet all of its energy needs from renewable sources by 2040. If it achieves this then the rest of the world will not be far behind.”
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