By Frank Jordans, Associated Press
BERLIN (AP) – German lawmakers on Thursday approved a major package of reforms aimed at boosting renewable energy production, as Chancellor Olaf Schulz warned that the country has 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 energy crisis between Moscow and its Western European neighbors, most of whom were buyers of Russian fossil fuels.
Germany has sharply reduced its energy imports from Russia in recent months. The government aims to end purchases of Russian coal and oil this year and natural gas by 2024.
Scholes said late Wednesday that the war was another reason to redouble efforts to expand the use of renewable energy in Europe’s largest economy.
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“Germany has been relying on the supply of energy from Russia for a long time and very unilaterally,” he said at a renewable energy industry event in Berlin.
“We need to understand that Russia is using force as a weapon,” Schulz said, referring to Moscow’s recent move to reduce the flow of natural gas to Europe.
“After all, no one believes that Russia is reducing its gas supply for technical reasons alone,” he added.
Energy Minister Robert Habek told lawmakers that the “perfect number and scope of legislation” now being rushed through the Bundestag reflects both the scale of the challenge and the government’s ambitions.
It recently pledged to accelerate the installation of solar and wind power facilities, setting a target of using 80% of Germany’s total electricity from renewable energy by 2030 – almost double last year – and reducing greenhouse gas emissions from all sources. At “net zero” by 2045.
To achieve this, the government has proposed allocating more land for coastal air parks and reducing bureaucratic hurdles that have slowed construction in recent years.
Still, economists this week questioned whether the government’s ambitious goals could be achieved even with the new system.
Andreas Jung, an anti-Christian Democrat lawmaker, has criticized the government for keeping coal-fired power plants heavily polluting in order to replace gas-powered facilities that have to be shut down due to a lack of supply. Instead, he suggested, Germany could expand the use of domestic biogas from agricultural waste.
As elsewhere in Europe, German consumers have been warned to expect significantly higher energy bills this year, mainly due to rising fossil fuel prices.
“If we want to keep energy efficient in the long run, if we want to combine supply protection and climate protection, it’s only possible with renewable energy,” Scholes said. “So we now have to kick the renewable expansion into higher gear.”
The law still has to be passed in the upper house of the German parliament, the Bundesrat.
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