Polish analysts: Germany uses energy to exercise economic muscle

Germany’s energy transition strategy is more about increasing economic influence in Europe than about moving to environmentally-friendly energy sources, say Polish energy analysts.

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The Energetyka24.com website says that Germany is the world’s largest consumer of lignite and Europe’s largest emitter of carbon dioxide. However, thanks to skilful public relations and “excellent propaganda”, it has managed to convince the world that it is committed to going green. In reality, Germany is dragging its feet on cutting carbon emissions and has come out against nuclear power, which is practically zero-emission.

The website suggests that the widely held view that Germany is effectively moving away from coal is chiefly due to “Energiewende propaganda”. Even though Germany closed its last hard-coal mine in December last year and stopped domestic extraction of the fuel, its energy industry continues to rely heavily on hard coal. German power producers have instead switched to imported coal.

In terms of the environment, the much-hyped decision to close the mines carries little weight because coal will continue to be burned in German furnaces for a long time to come. Brown-coal production in Germany shows no signs of decreasing. The country produces almost as much energy from lignite as it did in 1992. Berlin has done little over the past three decades to limit the supply of energy from this highly environmentally unfriendly fuel of which Germany is the world's largest consumer.

Germany consumes three times as much lignite as Poland, according to the website. It also intends to burn brown coal until at least 2050, according to its draft plans for energy and climate. The same draft plans show that in 2040 Germany will generate more electricity from coal than Poland does today. All the while, thanks to skilful promotional efforts, the Germans have managed to persuade the world that they are effectively moving away from coal.

No nukes

At the same time, the German energy transformation model, while urging a move away from the production of fossil fuels, wants nothing to do with nuclear power. This part of German energy policy stands in contradiction with the findings of the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, which has said in a report that nuclear power is needed to limit global increases in average temperatures.

Berlin not only wants to shut down its nuclear power plants by 2022 but is also seeking to counteract the construction of similar plants with the help of European Union funds in other member countries. Berlin seems to have a hidden political agenda in promoting a shift away from nuclear energy in Europe, especially in its central and eastern regions.

Such an approach by Berlin implies that it will favour gas, which Germany will have in abundance thanks to two Nord Stream pipelines sending the fuel from Russia. Germany already exports around 30 billion cubic metres of gas a year.

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Germany and Russia hand in hand over Nord Stream 2

Energetyka24 also challenges claims by German and Russian officials that the Nord Stream 2 gas link under construction between the two countries is an apolitical project indispensable for Europe's energy security. The existing infrastructure for transmission is only using 70 percent of its capacity.

The political nature of the Nord Stream 1 and Nord Stream 2 pipeline projects is “evident even without going into technical details,” argues the website. It’s enough to look at the map to see just how much Russia stands to benefit from the new Nord Stream 2 pipeline. The bottom line is to avoid traditional transit countries, chiefly Ukraine, “with which Russia is in fact at war,” energetyka24 observes.

It also points out that Berlin has reached a deal with Moscow to go ahead with the construction of the Nord Stream 2 pipeline despite conflict in the east of Ukraine, Russia's annexation of Ukraine’s Crimea peninsula, the 2014 downing of a commercial airliner over eastern Ukraine, last year's nerve gas attack in the English city of Salisbury, and a naval incident in the Kerch Strait.

What's more, the launch of the Nord Stream 2 pipeline will further strengthen Russia, which is already the largest supplier of gas to the European Union, while enabling the emergence and continued existence of local monopolies. This is clearly in contradiction to EU energy policy, which calls for the diversification of energy supplies.

Energetyka24 argues that Berlin has been eager to partner up with Moscow for the Nord Stream 2 project because it is seeking to boost its own economic and political position thanks to Russian gas. Germany’s central location in Europe enables the country to play the role of a central distribution hub, a position underscored by its well-developed transmission infrastructure, including efficient interconnectors.

In addition, the website says maintaining good relations with Moscow helps Berlin buy Russian gas at an attractive price. Lower than that paid, for example, by Poland, even though Poland is closer to Russia geographically.

The website concludes in its analysis that Germany’s “Energiewende” energy transition strategy is not about embracing environmentally-friendly energy, but about boosting Berlin’s political and economic influence in Europe.