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Federal Court of Auditors: Secure and affordable power supply in jeopardy

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The Federal Audit Office criticizes the Federal Minister for Economic Affairs and Energy, Peter Altmaier, for the fact that the CDU politician continues to “insufficiently control the energy transition with regard to the legal goals of a secure and inexpensive supply of electricity”. The department headed by Altmaier must better check the security of the power supply and “urgently examine scenarios that reliably depict current developments and existing risks”.

In general, it is incumbent on the Federal Ministry of Economics (BMWi) to measure the effects of the energy transition on companies and society on the basis of indicators and threshold values, writes the Court of Auditors in a published on Tuesday Report to the Bundestag. The ministry’s control is incomplete: aspects of supply reliability and system security such as network expansion and storage, the maintenance and stability of networks as well as supply failures are “not or only insufficiently” covered.

The BMWi must “also examine scenarios that reliably and realistically capture and map current developments and existing risks,” warn the auditors. So far, the federal government has not properly considered the planned exit from coal. This leaves a capacity gap of up to 4.5 gigawatts, which corresponds to the output of four large conventional power plants. At the same time, the new plans to generate hydrogen caused a considerable increase in electricity demand that had to be met.

Furthermore, “the faltering network expansion and limited cross-border exchange capacities have an impact on a secure supply,” the Court of Auditors warns. For its calculations, the BMWi must also take into account years with extreme climates, in which the wind and sun generated considerably less electricity. Overall, despite these imponderables, the ministry did not investigate a “worst-case scenario”. Such a stress test, in which several risk factors come together, is indispensable for a reliable analysis.

So far, the BMWi has not even explained what it means by a cheap and efficient supply of electricity, criticize the auditors. With the current system of state-regulated price components, the already high electricity prices will continue to rise. This overburdened many private end consumers financially, reduced the competitiveness of Germany and made the acceptance for the necessary “generation project” of the energy transition dwindle.

Numerous factors influenced the development of electricity prices, the report said. These included the demand for electricity, the further expansion of renewable energies, the expansion of lines and the new CO2 price. The state-regulated components with surcharges, taxes and network charges already accounted for 75 percent of electricity prices. This is why private households as well as small and medium-sized enterprises in Germany would have to pay the most here in Europe and this trend will continue to intensify.

The Court of Auditors therefore appeals to Altmaier to press ahead with a comprehensive price reform in order to put a reasonable financial burden on end consumers in the future. “Since our last balance in 2018, too little has been done to make the energy transition successful. That is sobering,” says the President of the testing authority, Kay Scheller.

Two and a half years ago, the inspectors called for greater coordination in the energy transition for the first time. At the time, they considered a clear legal framework and economic incentives for environmentally friendly behavior to be more helpful than a multitude of complicated laws and regulations. The BMWi, on the other hand, took the view that affordability could not be mapped with a single indicator and target value. It considers the comparison of failure work and storage options to be misleading.


(vbr)

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