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German lawmakers back plan to expand renewable energy

BERLIN (AP) – German lawmakers yesterday 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 neighbours, 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 on Wednesday the war was another reason for Europe’s biggest economy to double down on its efforts to expand the use of renewable energy. Referring to Moscow’s recent moves to reduce the flow of natural gas to Europe, Scholz that that “we have to realise 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.

A wind turbine behind a transformer station in Kraenzlin, Germany. PHOTO: AP

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 per cent 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 parks and lowering bureaucratic hurdles that 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 criticised 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 have been warned to expect significantly higher energy bills this year mainly due to the surge in prices of fossil fuels.

The law still needs to pass Germany’s upper house of parliament, the Bundesrat.

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