Röttgen rules out electricity shortage

German Christian Democratic Union (CDU) Environment Minister Norbert Röttgen has emphasised that his country would not be facing an energy supply crisis this winter despite its farewell to nuclear technology.

The German government coalition of CDU, Free Democratic Party (FDP) and the Bavarian Christian Social Union (CSU) decided around half a year ago to order the country’s energy sector firms to put all of their nuclear plants out of business by 2022.

The step was made after the nuclear disaster in Japan last March – and came just months after the administration of CDU Chancellor Angela Merkel opted for an extension of operating times of most of the 19 facilities on German soil.

“We are prepared for all possibilities,” Röttgen said about the issue speaking to Austrian newspaper Kurier today (Fri). The environment minister explained that his country had “remarkable reserves which surpass the estimated maximum demand (for electricity). (…) We decided to do without nuclear power within a decade and focus on more modern and safer technologies.”

Reports have it that Austria may be asked to help out supplying energy to German households in the coming years if the country – Europe’s strongest economy – experiences difficulties in meeting demand as one after another nuclear power plant stops operating. Röttgen kept tight-lipped about ways in which the countries could cooperate in the future as far as electricity supply was concerned. The CDU vice chief and environment minister said he discussed ways of how to manage supply and demand for electricity in the future with his counterparts from Europe’s other German-speaking countries.

There are no operating nuclear power facilities in Austria. The country’s populace avoided such a plant in Zwentendorf, Lower Austria, from being used to produce electricity in a referendum in 1978. A narrow majority of 50.47 per cent of participants said no to the plan of the ruling Social Democrats (SPÖ). The facility was controversially built before the referendum took place. The plant is used for research and as a storage site today. It attracts visitors from all over the world.

All major Austrian parties have been unequivocal on the issue since the nuclear disaster of Chernobyl in the now defunct Soviet Republic in 1986. Especially the Green Party has campaigned against nuclear technology. The party has harshly criticised Austrian energy sector firms for purchasing low-cost nuclear energy on global trading markets to sell it to private and business clients. Six per cent of electricity consumed in the alpine country in 2010 was created using nuclear technology.

Meanwhile, Statistik Austria announced that the price for electricity remained stable. The Austrian research group added that heating oil cost 20 per cent more last month than in September 2010 while the price of gas jumped by 11 per cent.

The Austrian Energy Agency explained that heating oil cost 18.3 per cent more in August of the current year than in the same time span of last year. The organisation also said that gas was 10.5 per cent dearer.

Wolfgang Anzengruber – the head of Austria’s biggest electricity provider Verbund AG – promised in July his company would not jack up consumer prices this year. However, Anzengruber refused to rule out higher prices for the coming years. Verbund has approximately 250,000 private customers in Austria.