Germany, the fourth largest economy in the world, has essentially banned fracking. And if that's not enough good news for a clean energy future, its capital city Berlin is also pulling its money out of coal, gas and oil companies.
Friends of the Earth Germany, alongside allies and German brewers, called for a ban on fracking outside of the German parliament April 28.Photo credit: Friends of the Earth Germany
Last Friday, Chancellor Angela Merkel's coalition of Christian Democrats and the Social Democrats passed legislation amending natural gas extraction rules in ways which effectively bans shale gas hydraulic fracturing, Bloomberg reported.
Bloomberg reported that Merkel's government made the decision after siding with environmental groups concerned with the environmental costs of fracking, a process which releases oil and gas locked deep underground.
The decision comes after years of debate on the issue. Before deciding on a ban, German law had previously permitted unconventional fracking even though no drilling permits have ever been approved. The fossil fuel industry, including ExxonMobil and Wintershall (Germany's largest crude oil and natural gas producer), had sought licenses for exploration and heavily lobbied for fracking to remain within the country even though Germans are widely against the controversial technology.
Germany's fracking ban is a big step towards a decarbonized economy. However, some environmental groups have criticized the government for not going far enough, as the fracking moratorium does not outlaw conventional drilling for oil and gas. Individual states can also decide if it wants to frack or not. Here's a copy of the draft amendment posted by Bloomberg:
- Ban uncoventional fracking nationwide excepting 4 test probes for scientific purposes. Lawmakers to review the ban in 2021.
- Give Germany's 16 state govts a veto right in whether to allow conventional fracking on their territory. Conventional drilling not permitted in zones supplying water for consumption.
"It is not a real ban on fracking what they decided," Greenpeace campaigner Christoph von Lieven told oil and gas publication Upstream. "The Bundestag decided that fracking will be allowed. Not banned."
Friends of the Earth Germany also told Reuters that the ban is not permanent since it will be reviewed in five years in 2021. "The coalition's agreement on a fracking permission law is hair-raising," said Hubert Weiger, head of the environmental group. "The law must be stopped and replaced with a true fracking ban."
While the reservations are valid, Germany has taken great strides as a renewable energy powerhouse. The country's Energiewende initiative aims for a nearly carbon-free economy by 2050. In fact, renewables supplied nearly 33 percent of German electricity in 2015, and last month—on a particularly sunny and windy day—Germany's renewable energy mix of solar, wind, hydropower and biomass generated so much power that it met 88 percent of the country's total electricity demand, or 55 GW out of 63 GW being consumed, meaning it generated so much clean power the country was paying people to use it.
This Country Generated So Much Renewable Energy It Paid People to Use It https://t.co/RV5DmoP9zu @FuturePowerGen @EnergyCollectiv— EcoWatch (@EcoWatch)1463018107.0
On the same week that the country decided on a fracking moratorium, Berlin's House of Representatives voted last Thursday to divest from fossil fuel companies.
According to Fossil Free Berlin, the new investment policy will ban coal, oil and gas companies from the city's €750 million pension fund, which includes shares in companies such as RWE, E.ON and Total.
"Berlin's decision to blacklist fossil fuel companies is the latest victory for the divestment movement, which serves to remove the social licence from companies whose business model pushes us into climate catastrophe," said Christoph Meyer a campaigner with the group. "We will keep a close eye on the administration to make sure it upholds today's commitment and urge the city to now take quick steps to break its reliance on coal power."
Divestment is expected to begin January 2017. Berlin, which also has a goal of becoming climate neutral by 2050, is now the seventh major city to divest following Paris, Copenhagen, Oslo, Seattle, Portland and Melbourne, Huffington Post noted.
To all of you who gave us so much love, hope & support along our way to #divestment: This is your victory, too! https://t.co/96PWGHdWLo— Fossil Free Berlin (@Fossil Free Berlin)1466692536.0
YOU MIGHT ALSO LIKE
A "trash tsunami" has washed ashore on the beaches of Honduras, endangering both wildlife and the local economy.
EcoWatch Daily Newsletter
More long-finned pilot whales were found stranded today on beaches in Tasmania, Australia. About 500 whales have become stranded, including at least 380 that have died, the AP reported. It is the largest mass stranding in Australia's recorded history.
- Annual Whale Slaughter Still a Tradition on the Faroe Islands ... ›
- Hundreds of Pilot Whales Die in Devastating Mass Stranding in New ... ›
- Green Group Tests Facebook With Ad Claiming Conservatives Back ... ›
- Illegal Wildlife Trade Thrives on Facebook, Internet Forums ... ›
- Facebook Loophole Allows Climate Deniers to Spread Misinformation ›
- Facebook Hires Koch-Funded Climate Deniers for 'Fact-Checking ... ›
By Harry Kretchmer
By 2030, almost a third of all the energy consumed in the European Union must come from renewable sources, according to binding targets agreed in 2018. Sweden is helping lead the way.
Sweden is a world leader in renewable energy consumption. Swedish Institute/World Bank
Naturally Warm<p>54% of Sweden's power comes from renewables, and is helped by its geography. With plenty of moving water and 63% forest cover, it's no surprise the <a href="https://sweden.se/nature/energy-use-in-sweden/#" target="_blank">two largest renewable power sources</a> are hydropower and biomass. And that biomass is helping support a local energy boom.</p><p>Heating is a key use of energy in a cold country like Sweden. In recent decades, as fuel oil taxes have increased, the country's power companies have turned to renewables, like biomass, to fuel local 'district heating' plants.</p><p>In Sweden these trace their <a href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0360544217304140#fig3" target="_blank">origins back to 1948</a>, when a power station's excess heat was first used to heat nearby buildings: steam is <a href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/topics/engineering/district-heating-system" target="_blank">forced along a network of pipes</a> to wherever it's needed. Today, there are around 500 district heating systems across the country, from major cities to small villages, providing heat to homes and businesses.</p><p>District heating used to be fueled mainly from the <a href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0360544217304140" target="_blank">by-products of power plants</a>, waste-to-energy plants and industrial processes. These days, however, Sweden is bringing more renewable sources into the mix. And as a result of competition, this localized form of power is now the country's<a href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0360544217304140#fig3" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer"> home-heating market leader.</a></p>
Sweden is using smart grids to turn buildings into energy producers. Huang et al/Elsevier
Energy ‘Prosumers’<p>But Sweden doesn't stop at village-level heating solutions. Its new breed of energy-generation takes hyper-local to the next level.</p><p>One example is in the city of Ludivika where 1970s flats <a href="https://www.buildup.eu/sites/default/files/content/transforming-a-residential-building-cluster-into-electricity-prosumers-in-sweden.pdf" target="_blank">have recently been retrofitted with the latest smart energy technology</a>.</p><p>48 family apartments spread across 3 buildings have been given photovoltaic solar panels, thermal energy storage and heat pump systems. A micro energy grid connects it all, and helps charge electric cars overnight.</p><p>The result is a cluster of 'prosumer' buildings, producing rather than consuming enough power for 77% of residents' needs. With <a href="http://www.diva-portal.org/smash/get/diva2:1232060/FULLTEXT01.pdf" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">high levels of smart meter usage</a>, it's a model that looks set to spread across Sweden.</p>
<div id="d7bf9" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="8757b138d5570bec9d6aad18074a429a"><blockquote class="twitter-tweet twitter-custom-tweet" data-twitter-tweet-id="1273556364263071744" data-partner="rebelmouse"><div style="margin:1em 0">Read more about Western Harbour and book a visit: https://t.co/ujSmVs9rNK 🏡🌳🌊 https://t.co/C5PuPziqIM</div> — Smart City Sweden (@Smart City Sweden)<a href="https://twitter.com/SmartCitySweden/statuses/1273556364263071744">1592474473.0</a></blockquote></div>
Scaling Up<p>A recent development by E.ON in Hyllie, a district on the outskirts of Malmö, southern Sweden, <a href="https://www.eonenergy.com/blog/2019/February/sweden-smart-city" target="_blank">has scaled up the smart grid principle</a>. Energy generation comes from local wind, solar, biomass and waste sources.</p><p>Smart grids then balance the power, react to the weather, deploying extra power when it's colder or putting excess into battery storage when it's warm. The system is not only more efficient, but bills have fallen.</p><p>Smart energy developments like those in Hyllie, Ludivika, and renewable-driven district heating, offer a radical alternative to the centralized energy systems many countries rely on today.</p><p>The EU's leaders have a challenge: how to generate 32% of energy from renewables by 2030. Sweden offers a vision of how technology and local solutions can turn a goal into a reality.</p>
- Sweden to Become One of World's First Fossil Fuel-Free Nation s ... ›
- These Countries Are Leading the Transition to Sustainable Energy ... ›
- Sweden Shuts Down Its Last Coal Plant Two Years Early - EcoWatch ›
By Jessica Corbett
In another win for climate campaigners, leaders of 12 major cities around the world — collectively home to about 36 million people — committed Tuesday to divesting from fossil fuel companies and investing in a green, just recovery from the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.
- Oxford Endowment Ditches Fossil Fuels in 'Historic' Decision ... ›
- Fossil Fuel Divestment Debates on Campus Spotlight Societal Role ... ›
- London and New York Mayors Call on Other World Cities to Divest ... ›