The energy turnaround falls on seehofer’s face

The energy turnaround falls on seehofer's face

A year ago, the rapid nuclear phase-out by 2022 was supposed to be a winning issue for the CSU – but in the meantime, party leader horst seehofer is falling for the energy turnaround. At every opportunity, seehofer complains about the lack of progress in berlin; in unison with economics minister martin zeil (FDP), he warns of the dangers for bavaria. In an act of obvious helplessness, seehofer wrote in the "suddeutsche zeitung" that the accused had not yet been charged in the meantime, even a new state-owned bayernwerk has been brought into play – even though the state electricity monopoly has been irrevocably abolished and such a revived state-owned company would in all likelihood write high losses under the current conditions.

"When it comes to very important questions – which come up once every one or two years – you have to drive", seehofer said in may 2011 – and led the CSU down a path that a majority in the party executive did not want to take. At a turbulent CSU executive board meeting in kloster andechs, seehofer forced his rebellious party friends to their knees and committed the CSU to an exit date of 2022. An early phase-out is feasible and realistic, seehofer said many times.

But it is now becoming very clear that the energy turnaround in the form promised by seehofer is neither feasible nor realistic. The state government’s energy concept has several key points: the expansion of renewable energies to 50 percent of bavarian electricity production by 2020, the construction of four to five new gas-fired power plants to replace shut-down nuclear power plants, and the expansion of high-voltage transmission lines. Bavaria should continue to cover its own electricity needs, and electricity should not become more expensive.

Current situation: electricity prices have already risen. There is still no investor for new gas-fired power plants. Grid expansion is behind schedule. According to the ministry of economics, the most important new high-voltage line will be the "thuringer strombrucke" which actually had to be in operation by the end of 2015 at all costs. In 2015, the grafenrheinfeld nuclear power plant in bavaria will also be shut down – at which point a replacement for the lack of nuclear power will urgently have to be imported into bavaria.

However, on the thuringian side, the planned 100-meter-wide power line is very controversial. The bavarian minister-president christine lieberknecht (CDU) does not see the project as urgent as the bavarian government. State chancellor thomas kreuzer (CSU) conceded that the power bridge on thuringia’s side will probably not be ready until 2017 – two years too late for bavaria.

But in 2017, gundremmingen B will be the last bavarian reactor to be shut down. At the latest, it will be extremely tight for bavarian electricity supply. Even last winter, the electricity supply in germany could only be maintained with a great deal of effort. Economics minister zeil warns repeatedly that bavaria’s security of supply is at stake. In plain language, this means that major power failures and blackouts are possible in the future.

And quite apart from the security of supply, from today’s perspective it is as certain as the amen in the church that bavaria will lose its previous independence in electricity production. "The energy turnaround as planned a year ago is on the brink of failure", says a member of the CSU leadership. "We must say goodbye to bavaria’s self-sufficiency in electricity."

In the meantime, companies are also getting restless. The association of bavarian businesses demands "great haste in the construction of new gas-fired power plants. But even though seehofer pushed through the rapid nuclear phase-out in may 2011 in the face of such rude opposition, there is currently no sign of rebellion within the CSU. So far, seehofer has succeeded in deflecting the anger onto chancellor angela merkel (CDU) and the federal government. "I don’t think he will have any problems", says the CSU man. "No one wants a leadership discussion."