If the current energy crisis is shedding light on the problems of our future energy supply situation, then three of these problems clearly stand out. First, we need to intensify our focus on a heat transition by a very significant factor. Secondly, today’s prices on the natural gas and electricity markets are a foretaste of future times, when CO2 pricing based on responsibility filters through. And thirdly: renewables can constitute an important part of future supply security.
A great deal has already been said and written about the heat transition, which to date has been much too hesitant. The fact is that several environmentally friendly technologies for heat production are already available in the form of heat pumps, pellet heating systems and district or local heating. But there is no escaping the fact that, for many existing dwellings, refurbishment and proper heat insulation are required first, since otherwise efficiently produced green heat would vanish through the building envelope in massive quantities. At this point, it should once again be pointed out – to those who criticise the reduction of the funding quotas for such measures by the Reconstruction Loan Association and the Federal Office of Economics and Export Control (Bafa) in August – that, at current energy prices, the amortisation times for such heat insulation measures, even with somewhat reduced funding quotas, are very much shorter than before the crisis.
With or without the gas crisis, CO2 prices will continue to rise so that climate goals remain attainable. Even now, one tonne of CO2 costs around 90 euros on European trading platforms. Since last year, the costs of this CO2 levy have been divided between landlords and tenants according to the energy efficiency status of the building. Here, in my view, there is no getting round the fact that the entire heating costs (and not simply the CO2 supplements) must be similarly divided in the medium and long term. In this way, the refurbishment bottleneck in the rental market would be resolved considerably more quickly.
Since the German Federal Finance Minister, Christian Lindner, called renewable energies ‘freedom energies’, there has been a growing consciousness that only a massive expansion of renewables improves supply security and reduces dependence on imports. Even if sun and wind energy fluctuate according to the weather, at least it’s our own weather and it’s very cheap! Moreover, these are energy sources that, in future, we will increasingly be able to store in large quantities.
All politicians who nevertheless – with more or fewer caveats – call for the reactivation of nuclear power stations are advised to take a look at our neighbours in France, and what the supposed ‘renaissance’ of nuclear power over there looks like. Half of the plants are under inspection because of serious hairline fractures on the reactor; the other half are running at severely reduced capacity since no cooling water is available in the rivers. The operating companies have had to be nationalised, and huge quantities of electricity have had to be imported from other countries.
Hence it is my hope that, however grave and unpleasant the present crisis is, it will hopefully also help to sharpen our view of the essential facts.