Meeting of Energy Ministers focuses on expanding the grid and stepping up investments in the energy transition


At yesterday's meeting of energy ministers via videoconferencing, Federal Minister for Economic Affairs and Energy Peter Altmaier and the energy ministers of the federal states discussed current issues, especially expanding the grid and stepping up investments in the energy transition in a bid to put the economy back on a path to growth after the coronavirus crisis.

Minister Altmaier said: "The expansion of the grid in Germany is moving forward step by step. By 2019, around half of all projects carried out under the Power Line Expansion Act were in operation and another third of the projects is already underway. We are planning to have around 90 per cent of these projects under construction or in operation by the end of 2020. Of the large north-south electricity highways, the SuedOstLink electricity highway is now the first high-voltage direct-current transmission line to have all of its corridors for power line routing set. By the end of the year, nearly 90 per cent of the projects will be in the planning approval phase or will have advanced even further, in line with the Federal Requirements Plan Act. But we must not let up in our efforts. The Federal Government and the governments of the federal states must keep working continuously to accelerate the expansion of the grid."

In addition to stepping up efforts to expand the grid, the energy ministers of the federal states called for higher investments in the transformation of Germany’s energy system in order to put the economy back on a path to growth after the coronavirus crisis. They presented a position paper on this issue to the Federal Government, which foresees substantial incentives for investment and financial assistance, and also envisages easing electricity prices.

Professor Andreas Pinkwart, State Minister for Economic Affairs, Digitization, Innovation and Energy and Chairman of the Energy Ministers' Meeting, said: "The energy transition can become an important driver of growth for successfully managing the economic consequences of the coronavirus crisis. This requires us to now provide strong incentives for substantial investments in renewable energy, smart grids and hydrogen infrastructure. In the short term, we are also calling on the Federal Government to urgently abolish the 52 GW cap on financial assistance for photovoltaics, to pass the law on the phase-out of coal before the summer break and to significantly reduce the burden on electricity consumers, for example by reducing electricity tax and the EEG surcharge".

Franz Untersteller, Minister of the Environment, Climate and the Energy Sector of the state of Baden-Württemberg, said: "The energy transition and climate protection can be strong drivers for growth and help us to emerge stronger from the crisis in economic and ecological terms. We have made proposals to make this happen and it is now up to the Federal Government not only to respond to them but to make bold new efforts to quickly pave the way for this so that it will also benefit the people and nature. We must seize the opportunity to make our economy and our energy system more sustainable and fit for the future by assigning a substantial share of our investments to the energy sector, i.e. the electricity, heat and transport sectors. It is also urgently necessary to provide incentives for the expansion of new technologies such as hydrogen."

Olaf Lies, Lower Saxony's Minister for the Environment, Energy, Building and Climate Protection, said: "Environmental protection and climate change mitigation must now be the drivers of our economy. We must create jobs for the markets of the future today and ensure that the billions of euros provided by the Federal Government and the governments of the federal states are invested in climate-friendly technologies and products after the coronavirus crisis. In addition, there must be an end to the poking around in the financial morass in which the electricity systems are currently immersed. The Federal Government must finally establish a clear and sustainable financing structure. "

Hubert Aiwanger, Bavaria's Minister of Economic Affairs, Regional Development and Energy, said: "Overall, the energy transition generates growth, creates jobs and stands for sustainable value creation. Bavaria therefore expressly supports the call for a noticeable reduction and stabilisation of the EEG surcharge. This would bring targeted relief to private households, SMEs and industry. By taking this measure, we would make it easier for industry to get out of crisis mode. At the same time, we must finally make progress on hydrogen. We expect the national hydrogen strategy to be adopted soon so that we can help this technology reach a breakthrough all over Germany. Hydrogen holds massive potential for power generation and mobility."

In addition, the federal states have identified need for action in energy policy that must now be urgently addressed in order to prevent the energy transition from coming to a standstill due to the coronavirus pandemic. This is because the current restrictions on public life also have a profound impact on a large number of processes related to the energy industry and energy policy. According to the decision of the energy ministers, delays in important legal decisions on the energy transition must be prevented at all costs. Last week, the Federal Cabinet adopted proposals for short-term legislative changes on some issues.