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Against the German Angst

By Sven Geitmann

January 15, 2024

Image titel: A desolate situation for the energy industry

Sources: Correct Conception KI

Against the German Angst

The current situation of the German government appears to be a state of desolation: The constitutional court did not play along as hoped – albeit by the narrowest of margins – and has awarded the Ampel Coalition a 60-billion-euro gap in the budget.

Out of this, a desolate situation for the energy industry could also rise, since many projects that were to be financed via the planned fund for climate action and clean energy Klima- und Transformationsfonds (KTF) have come into question, justifiably or not. The uncertainty is great.

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The situation beforehand was already tense. Decisions from Brussels, for example, have had a long wait time. This was the case with the EU energy directive RED II, RED III and also the IPCEI projects – even though RED III was published on October 31, 2023. If things go well, at the end of the year still, the 37th ordinance on the implementation of the German emissions reduction act (37th BImSchV) could be updated – after twelve years.

This waiting has not exactly encouraged many investors to make their money available for projects for the future. The FID (final investment decision) especially for numerous electrolysis projects is still pending, because the framework conditions are not seen as sufficiently secure.

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Not without reason, numerous companies took part in the tender for the Important Projects of Common European Interest. In doing so, they are relying on EU member state funds to reduce their own financial risk.

The price they have to pay for these “gifted” state funds is that they have to abide by the giver’s rules. It also means that they have to put up with it when a decision takes longer in Brussels.

The loud lamentation therefore has a bit of hypocrisy to it, since after all nobody forced them to apply for an IPCEI. They could all have started much earlier on such projects, even at their own risk. But now some of them are sitting there complaining that their originally planned IPCEI project is no longer viable in the form applied for, although it was they themselves who had decided to take this path.

Again and again in this context have there been warnings that companies based in Germany could move abroad to where the framework conditions are supposedly better. Perhaps there are individual companies that will actually take this step. Exactly what their motives are, we will probably never know, but it should be clear that such a decision does not depend solely on the processing time in Brussels but is multifactorial.

And yes, one or two projects will probably never be realized – for whatever reason. Westküste100 is such a project. As a real-world lab it has done valuable work, but “H2 Westküste GmbH will not make a positive investment decision for the planned electrolyzer” can be read on their homepage. And “The reason for it is especially the increased investment costs.”

That may hurt one or the other player, since such a scenario may also threaten other projects. But isn’t it better to stop a recognizably uneconomical project at the right time than to desperately hold on to it and to go through with it against your better judgment? Isn’t it better to acknowledge the altered framework conditions by the now two wars and current energy emergency, and to recalculate?

Because Westküste100 won’t continue does not mean that the energy transition has been canceled, that we are not switching to renewable energies and hydrogen after all. Just because a few companies will produce elsewhere in the future does not mean that value creation will no longer take place in Germany.

The political commitment is there: German economy minister Robert Habeck as well as numerous minister-presidents of the federal states recently emphasized the enormous importance of H2 projects in particular. In addition, a startup scene has now established itself in Germany, which is pushing its way onto the market with new, innovative ideas. Here, investors are called to recognize their potential and make advance investments now at their own risk – without subsidies.

I don’t want to refer to the American e-car manufacturer again, but there exist – even in Europe – players who with a little instinct or a lot of money can make new technologies marketable at the right time.

The energy transition is a gigantic challenge – for everyone. Who, if not Germany, would be better placed to exemplarily show the way and offer suitable products? Instead of seeing the enormous potential that lies in this global upheaval, however, many in this country remain stuck in “German Angst.” It’s bad enough that this term (according to Wikipedia, “typical German hesitancy”) is now commonplace around the world.

The motto should therefore be: “Recognize and leverage potentials to shape a sustainable future together.”

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