German energy summit avoids divisive nuclear issue

German energy summit avoids divisive nuclear issue

Germany’s politicians and bosses of the country’s utilities agreed on Monday to put off any decisions on the one energy issue that generates tension inside the governing coalition — the future of atomic power.

“We discussed the fact that internationally nuclear energy is taking on an increasing significance. But at the same time we have a coalition agreement that sticks to phasing out nuclear energy,” Chancellor Angela Merkel told reporters after the government’s second “energy summit”.

She said discussion of the issue would be pushed back to the next energy summit in March and reiterated that the law requiring the gradual closure of all of Germany’s nuclear power stations by the early 2020s remained in force.

Some in Merkel’s camp have made no attempt to hide a desire to reopen the issue of phasing out nuclear energy, arguing that it would harm Germany’s competitiveness as an energy producer. The utilities would also like to keep their reactors running.

Nuclear power, which supplies a third of German electricity, produces virtually no harmful carbon dioxide emissions.

Merkel’s conservative Christian Democrats (CDU), their Bavarian sister party, the Christian Social Union (CSU), and the centre-left Social Democrats (SPD) included adherence to the nuclear phase-out in their 2005 coalition agreement.

Opinion polls show most Germans favour the phase-out.


While few specifics came out of the summit there was a general agreement that Germany’s energy producers needed to become more efficient and competitive.

“The question of competitiveness is a key one,” Merkel said, adding they had agreed on a “goal of doubling Germany’s energy sector’s productivity by 2020.”

Germany’s top utilities — RWE , E.ON , EnBW and Vattenfall Europe — have been criticised by the government for their high prices.

Merkel reiterated that she would make climate change and reducing greenhouse gas emissions a priority when Germany takes over the rotating EU presidency from Finland in January.

The administration of U.S. President George W. Bush has opposed mandatory caps on greenhouse gas emissions aimed at slowing climate change and pulled the United States out of the 160-nation Kyoto Protocol on emissions limits in 2001.

“We need clarity as soon as possible about what will happen with the Kyoto Protocol after 2012,” Merkel said.

Kyoto obliges 35 rich nations to cut emissions by 2012.

She and SPD Environment Minister Sigmar Gabriel reiterated their plan to reduce Germany’s dependency on energy imports and to promote renewable energy sources like solar and wind power.

Merkel said she would discuss the issue of energy security with Russian President Vladimir Putin when they meet on Tuesday.

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