BERLIN (AP) — German lawmakers on Thursday approved a major package of reforms aimed at boosting the production of renewable power, as Chancellor Olaf Scholz warned that the country has for too long relied on energy supplies from Russia.
The government unveiled its 600-page “Easter package” in April, less than two months after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine escalated the simmering energy crisis between Moscow and western European neighbors, many of which were buyers of Russian fossil fuels.
Germany has sharply reduced its energy imports from Russia in recent months. The government aims to end the purchase of Russian coal and oil this year, and of natural gas by 2024.
Scholz said late Wednesday that the war was another reason for Europe’s biggest economy to double down on its efforts to expand the use of renewable energy.
“Germany has relied for too long and too unilaterally on energy supplies from Russia,” he said at a renewable energy industry event in Berlin.
Referring to Moscow’s recent moves to reduce the flow of natural gas to Europe, Scholz that that “we have to realize that Russia is using energy as a weapon.”
“After all, no one believes that Russia is reducing its gas supplies for technical reasons alone,” he added.
Energy Minister Robert Habeck told lawmakers that the “sheer number and extent of laws” now being hurried through the Bundestag reflected both the scale of the challenge and the government’s ambition.
It recently pledged to rapidly accelerate the installation of sun and wind power facilities, setting a target of generating 80% of Germany’s gross electricity use from renewable energy by 2030 — almost double the share it had last year — and cutting greenhouse gas emissions from all sources to “net zero” by 2045.
To achieve this, the government proposed setting aside more land for onshore wind park s and lowering bureaucratic hurdles that have slowed construction in recent years.
Still, economists questioned this week whether the government’s ambitious goals were achievable even with the new measures.
Opposition lawmaker Andreas Jung of the Christian Democrats criticized the government for keeping heavily polluting coal-fired power plants on stand-by to replace gas-fired facilities that have to shut down due to lack of supply. Instead, he suggested, Germany could expand the use of domestic biogas from agricultural waste.
Consumers in Germany, like elsewhere in Europe, have been warned to expect significantly higher energy bills this year mainly due to the surge in prices of fossil fuels.
“If we want to keep energy affordable in the long term, if we want to reconcile supply security and climate protection, then this is only possible with renewable energies,” said Scholz. “That’s why we need to kick the expansion of renewables into high gear now.”
While independence from Russian energy is one of the government’s stated goals, a new report Thursday by the International Energy Agency warned that the supply of solar panels — key to Germany’s green energy transition — is increasingly concentrated in China.
The Paris-based agency said China currently has a share of more than 80% in all the key manufacturing stages of solar panels. For some photovoltaic components the share coming from China is set to rise to 95% in the coming years, it said.
“China has been instrumental in bringing down costs worldwide for solar PV, with multiple benefits for clean energy transitions,” the IEA’s executive director, Fatih Birol, said. “At the same time, the level of geographical concentration in global supply chains also poses potential challenges that governments need to address.
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