RE curbs spark German protest

Thousands of demonstrators on foot or in boats on the river Spree protested in Berlin on Saturday against plans by the government to reform the country’s Renewable Energies Act (EEG) in a fashion designed to slow down the expansion of renewables.

“The federal government’s plans for a reform of the EEG delay the Energiewende. Parliament needs to make improvements and pass a law that accelerates the Energiewende instead of choking it off,” Hubert Weiger, chairman of the Federation for Environment and Natural Protection, or BUND, told the protesters.

According to German media and organisers such as anti-nuclear group Ausgestrahlt, between 10,000 and 12,000 people took part in the colourful demonstration, which was backed by 120 boats, canoes or rafts on the river Spree that crosses Berlin’s government district.

They carried banners with slogans such as “system change, not climate change” and “don’t let the Energiewende capsize”.

Dozens of green and anti-nuclear groups such as BUND or Ausgestrahlt from across Germany had called for the demonstration. Germany’s lower house of parliament, the Bundestag, is currently debating the EEG reform, which energy minister Sigmar Gabriel hopes will be approved before the summer recess.

The government’s reform draft for the first time stipulates a cap on the expansion of renewables' share of Germany’s electricity output of 45% by 2025, and of 60% by 2035, up from around 27% now.

The proposal also lowers the target for offshore wind to 6.5GW in 2020 from 10GW previously planned, and to 15GW in 2030, down from 25GW previously targeted. And it introduces an annual cap of 2.5GW for the expansion of onshore wind as well as further cuts to feed-in tariffs.

The proposal also for the first time includes a levy on self-consumption that is much criticised by solar groups.

While Gabriel says the cuts in support and other changes are necessary to stop energy prices from spiralling out of control, the protesters claim that much of the reform has the purpose of protecting the coal industry that traditionally has strong links with Gabriel’s Social Democratic Party (SPD).