Germans 'back faster energy shift'

Despite months of fierce debate over the cost of renewables, a majority of Germans thinks the energy transition away from nuclear power is advancing too slowly – and most are considering using solar themselves, a new opinion survey suggests.

Out of 2,000 people polled, 57% believe the energy turnaround is going too slowly, while only 30% said it is advancing too fast, according to the survey by Infratest Dimap on behalf of Germany’s solar industry association BSW.

Environmental protection should be the most important criterion for political decisions regarding the energy turnaround, 39% of those polled said, followed by 34% giving top importance to costs and 26% to the security of energy supply.

Environment minister Peter Altmaier and economics minister Philipp Rösler in February pushed a debate about the cost of renewable energy, suggesting harsh cuts to feed-in tariffs aimed at bringing down electricity bills for consumers. Their proposal was put on ice after it failed to win backing by German states.

Contrary to what the poll suggests the majority of Germany’s population thinks, EU energy commissioner Günther Oettinger recently said the energy transition is moving too fast, as there are not enough transmission lines to transport power from windy northern Germany to industrial centres to the south.

Germany is phasing out nuclear power by 2022, and has a target to boost renewables to meet 35% of its electricity demand by 2020, up from 23% last year.

Homeowners polled showed a clear inclination toward investing in renewable installations, with 60% considering adding rooftop solar for heating or electricity generation.

The survey also showed that 63% have already heard of solar storage, while 47% are even considering investing in it.

Germany’s government from May on will grant support toward the installation of solar storage batteries in private homes as a means to kick-start the storage sector and take pressure off power grids, which are increasingly struggling with rising amounts of home-made renewable energy flooding the system at midday.

The fierce debate over renewables support seems to have left its mark in the population already. Fifty-nine per cent of home owners say they haven’t invested in renewable installations yet because laws and support mechanisms are changing frequently, making a possible investment insecure.

The poll also shows a critical attitude toward the political debate on Germany’s energy turnaround, with 46% of the surveyed saying the interests of big energy utilities are at the centre of policy. Another 39% think the discussion circles mainly about electricity prices, while 23% think the debate is about party politics.

Infratest Dimap conducted the survey between March 12 and 20.