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Prosperity versus pollution in Germany

The energy transition known as the “Energiewende” in Germany is key to Europe’s economic success in the future. It is not just about putting up wind farms and solar panels in order to reduce greenhouse gas emissions: it is also about using energy storage to create smart energy and transport systems, that will no longer be dependent on burning the fossil fuels of coal and oil. The knowledge gained by the implementation of the energy transition in Europe, will itself become an export commodity to countries such as China and India, which are desperate to move away from polluting coal fired power stations, not only to fight climate change, but also to improve the air quality for their own citizens.

There is some resistence to EU environmental protection regulations from those “Bundesländer”, federal states in Germany, that have traditionally depended upon coal for employment. In an article of 22nd August 2017 published on the website of entitled, “Braunkohle-Länder fordern Klage”, which translates as lignite states call for legal action: it was reported that the Minister President of Saxony, Stanislaw Tillich had written a letter to the Minister of Economic Affairs, Brigiite Zypries, of the German federal government complaining about stricter EU regulations limiting the emissions of mercury and nitrogen oxide from lignite burning power stations. Tillich – who was writing on behalf of his own state of Saxony and three other states of Brandenburg, North Rhine-Westphalia, and Saxony-Anhalt involved in the open-cast mining of lignite and electricity generation from burning lignite – said that to keep to the EU’s regulations would be technically impossible.

However the answer for Germany’s future economic prosperity will not be to fight against the EU’s climate protection and anti-pollution regulations, but rather to phase out the open-cast mining of lignite altogether. In the process new technology will be developed to bring many more local clean energy power sources onto the electricity grid. This will involve retraining and re-employment of management and workers – who previously worked in the fossil fuel energy sector – to implement the energy transition successfully. Instead of resisting the EU’s environmental regulations: politicians, energy companies and unions should now be lobbying the EU institutions for grants to help with these structural changes of energy supply towards renewable energy and storage technology, that will phase out fossil fuels, in order to create a clean and sustainable energy future.

©Jolyon Gumbrell 2017


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