Ulrich Kelber Interview

Ulrich Kelber is the expert for energy questions at the SPD, which is the junior partner in the coalition government coming up in Germany as a consequence of the latest elections. PV Magazine has published an interesting interview with him (in German). Thanks for Franz Alt’s Sonnenseite for the link.

While the coalition has agreed on a basic policy document, that certainly doesn’t mean that the CDU and the SPD agree on these questions in all respects. Kelber gives some insider background information.

For one, the SPD wanted a goal of 75 percent renewable share of electricity until 2030. That would have been 25 percent more than the existing 2030 goal of 50 percent. But there was strong opposition from Chancellor Merkel to that idea. Which is why we are stuck with a much more modest goal of 40 to 45 percent until 2025.

We learn two things from that. For one, this result is in line with what the voters wanted, since Merkel’s CDU got much more votes than Kelber’s CDU. While I don’t like the result, it is certainly what basic values of democracy require.

And we also learn that CDU policy is to go slow, and the SPD is the party in the coalition that wants to speed things up. Maybe someone should tell Chancellor Merkel that we have somewhat of a problem with global warming. And that having a fast transition will cost much less than a slow one, since it saves more fossil fuel import costs earlier on.

Anyway, the good news is of course that there are still multiple elections coming up until 2030. Maybe we will get a Chancellor Kelber in one of those. Or maybe whoever is Merkel’s successor at the CDU takes a different position.

Kelber also points out that an additional 20 percent in the next ten years is about the same speed as Germany got in average for the last 12 years.

On the other hand, that is counting some of the early years with rather small capacity additions. We now have much lower costs and a much larger installation base, with the know-how and large installation market that come with those things, so staying at the average speed of the last twelve years doesn’t seem to be very impressive. But it is probably the best the SPD could get with this coalition partner.

One sentence in the basic agreement says that the coalition will “think about” introducing a requirement for renewable energy installations to guarantee a part of their capacity to be available at all times. Kelber doesn’t think that this will be actually enacted. He says the idea is “crazy” (abstrus).

I agree. Again, this point shows that the agreement doesn’t mean that all differences of opinion between the SPD and the CDU have disappeared overnight.

In contrast, Kelber cautiously supported the idea of an auction model to determine feed-in tariffs for large-scale installations. I recall that that was one of the things the EU Commission wants as well. He also mentioned that there will pilot projects in 2016.

Anyway, the really good news wasn’t even mentioned in the interview. It is very simple.

Before the election, the CDU was the party advocating a faster transition, and the FDP coalition partner was always hitting the brakes full force.

Now the CDU is the slower partner, and the SPD will try to get things done faster.

That’s progress.


Published by kflenz

Professor at Aoyama Gakuin University, Tokyo. Author of Lenz Blog (since 2003, lenzblog.com).

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