German main political parties are realising the urgency to do more in relation to the transition to renewable energy sources, promising to accelerate the decarbonisation of the economy as the climate crisis becomes a further battleground in the campaign to win the federal election.

In a televised debate, the chancellor candidate for the Social Democratic Party (SPD) Olaf Scholz said that now Germany is “abandoning the use of the atomic energy and coal-fired power generation,” and stepping in the production of renewable energies, but “much, much more electricity than before” is necessary especially to power the industry.

Without oil, gas and coal, which have been the engine for industrial production in the past, the next government will have to quickly decide in the first year in office how to expand targets for electricity generation, the use of wind power and energy efficient power grids, he said, adding that “all laws [will have] to be changed so to be ready in time” because the transition “can’t be so slow”.

Germany will exit coal by 2038 and from the production of energy through nuclear power by 2022 at the latest – the latter move triggered by the nuclear disaster in Fukushima in 2011.

A ruling of the constitutional court in April prompted the government to review the Climate Protection Act, setting the target to become carbon-neutral by 2045 at the latest, from 2050 previously, and cutting greenhouse-gas emissions by 65% by 2030 and by 88% until 2040.

The SPD proposes in its electoral programme to generate all electricity from renewable energies by 2040 at the latest and speed up the construction of power grids, hydrogen pipes and charging stations for electric cars.

Germany should become a lead market for hydrogen technologies by 2030, according to SPD’s proposals.

The CDU, however, has stuck to the 2045 climate-neutral goal, proposing to build up the European emissions trading system also for the aviation, mobility, heating and shipping sectors.

It also promises to improve the framework to make investments in climate and energy efficiency technologies to reduce CO2 tax deductible. The party has recently published a 15-points plan to accelerate the use of renewable energies.

The CDU said it plans to put in place an “hydrogen strategy” and to promote international cooperation for the import of hydrogen, the expansion of the infrastructure and the conversion of existing systems. It proposes generate hydrogen from renewable energies, so-called green hydrogen, and use blue hydrogen in the transition phase.

The Greens, instead, want to achieve a 100% renewable energy position by 2035 as it anticipates the coal phase out to shift from 2038 to 2030.

“The next government will be the last to have an active influence on the climate crisis, and I am deeply convinced that we can do it,” the chancellor candidate for the Green Party Annalena Baerbock said.

In August, the Greens published a climate protection programme to design policies to tackle the issue by quickly expanding the use of renewable energies, supporting the economy and industry towards the transition to climate neutrality, and through a stronger use of green hydrogen, among other points.

Risk of failing

Despite the promises, the next government may not be able to reach its decarbonisation target and the global warming limit of 1.5°C as set out by the Paris Agreement, according to analysis by S&P Global.

“None of the election manifestos are compatible with the 1.5°C target; the Greens are closest,” Claudia Kemfert, head of the energy, transportation and environment department at the German Institute of Economic Research (DIW Berlin) and member of the German Environment Ministry’s expert council on environmental issues, said.

S&P’s research also shown that the German wind energy association BWE recognised the Greens as the party with the “strongest commitment to renewables and the deployment of new capacity”, ahead of Die Linke, and then CDU and SPD.

The BWE estimated that to reach net-zero targets by 2045 Germany has to produce onshore wind at the tune of 4.5 GW per year.

“The big hurdle is German bureaucracy,” said Daniel Breuer, energy lawyer and partner at Osborne Clarke.

For Breuer, the exit from coal by 2030 isn’t realistic, but the new gas power plants supplied by the incoming Nord Stream 2 pipeline from Russia could help accelerate the transition.

On hydrogen, according to S&P, Kemfert said that green hydrogen will be deployed at scale in Germany most likely in a decade. “And in this decade we have to at least triple the rate of expansion of renewable energies and get out of fossil fuels,” she said.

To read the digital edition of IPE’s latest magazine click here.