Interview with Prof. Dr Grischa Perino, University of Hamburg
Renewable Energy Hamburg: „What issues are you currently dealing with in the area of climate research?”
Prof. Perino: “As part of the climate excellence cluster” ‚Climate, Climate Change and Society‘ I am tackling what social dynamics support or hinder an ambitious climate policy. To do this, we undertook a major field study last autumn as part of the Fridays for future mass rallies and gained interesting findings about how the expected size of a demonstration can have an impact on an individual’s decision to take part. Additionally, a further large joint project was started a few weeks ago ARIADNE, in which I took part. We are working here on socially sustainable energy transition strategies together with 25 other research organisations in Germany. My particular attention lies in the reciprocal effects of German energy and climate policy with the EU’s basic framework, in particular emissions trading.”
Renewable Energy Hamburg: “How do you rate the current Coal Phase-Out Act and why?”
Prof. Perino: “I am critical of the Coal Phase-Out Act . Coal-fired power stations must be shut down. However, this has already been ensured by the EU Emissions Trading Scheme. There is a clear emissions upper threshold for all large plants within the EU that pose a risk to the environment. This upper threshold is falling year on year, i.e. the emissions allowances are becoming tighter and tighter and therefore more expensive. Coal-fired power stations are becoming less economic and renewable energies more attractive. As is borne out by an analysis by the AGORA energy transition, the price rise for emissions allowances has resulted in an enormous fall in coal-fired generation in 2019. If we pursue this path consistently, the climate targets will be achieved more reliably and at lower costs. The operators would shut down their power stations in their own interests, as it is no longer viable to operate them. There would not be any entitlement to compensation, as in the case of a legally required phase-out. That would save billions in taxpayer’s money. The energy phase-out legislation envisages that emissions allowances will be revoked each year to the same extent that emissions are saved. That is important, as it is revoking emissions allowances and not the forced shutdown of power stations that will lead to lower emissions. Otherwise, the emissions allowances would simply be used elsewhere. Unfortunately, the German Federal government is revoking emissions allowances in a way that is not geared to the new design of emissions trading. The climate impact is lower than would be the case with a better design.
Renewable Energy Hamburg: “How do you see the European Green Deal? What opportunities does it bring? Where does it fall short?”
Prof. Perino: “The European Green Deal is an important and ambitious initiative. It shows that the EU is serious about its contribution to the climate targets agreed in Paris. At its heart is the undertaking to be climate neutral by the middle of the century. The EU is not content with noble objectives, it backs them up with a massive investment programme, with clear overall guidelines and with institutional reforms. The latter also includes changing the voting rules on energy taxes in the EU from the principal of unanimity to qualified majorities. That could get things moving. “However, it does remain to be seen what points are actually implemented and how.”