German automakers are caught in a quandary – how can they pay more for a clean energy surcharge tax when automotive sales are down. The problem stems from German Chancellor Angela Merkel's move to take the country further away from nuclear and toward using more renewables to power the electricity grid.

For automakers, it can therefore make more sense to generate their own energy than to pay taxes on renewables made by commercial producers. "Generating your own power is not only cheaper in most cases, it could also protect you from grid failures," Sebastian Bolay, an energy policy analyst at DIHK, told Bloomberg.

BMW is funding four wind turbine towers that will soon supply almost a quarter of the power used at its Leipzig plant. It's there that the automaker builds its X1 sport-utility vehicle and will soon make the i3 electric car. Overall, the company generated 28 percent of its power from renewables in 2011 and wants to eventually reach 100 percent. BMW wants to meet two targets – cutting its carbon output and achieving cost savings from anticipated falling prices for wind and solar energy.

Daimler and Volkswagen are changing over to gas-powered plants to reduce energy costs. Daimler will be opening a gas-fired plant to supply power and heat to its truck factory in Woerth, reducing energy costs about 26 percent and carbon emissions 15 percent compared to its previous energy supply. Volkswagen will also open a 70-megawatt, gas-powered station at a component plant in Kassel, and may add at least five more generators in coming years.

This year, a 47-percent hike in the clean-energy surcharge will be implemented in Germany, which could add as much as 254 million euros (about $332 million) to the combined power bills of automakers and parts suppliers in Germany. The surcharge has gone up sixfold since 2006 and the German government estimates it will cost about 550 billion euros (about $719 billion US) for plant and grid upgrades during the switch away from nuclear. That cost will be covered in part by raising power surcharges.

All of this takes place during a period of declining auto sales in Europe. Demand in Europe is going into its sixth consecutive annual decline in 2013, and last year experienced its lowest level in nearly two decades. In Germany, automakers are paying more for energy and in labor costs than competitors in other European nations.

Chancellor Merkel's plan was proposed after Japan's Fukushima nuclear plant meltdown nearly two years ago, and it relies on expanded use of wind and solar power. Along with the surcharges, renewable energy fluctuates based on ideal weather conditions, which increases the risk of power outages. This risk and cost factors have motivated automakers to invest in their own power generators.


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  • 29 Comments
      ronwagn
      • 2 Years Ago
      Natural gas is the future of energy. It is replacing dirty old coal plants, and dangerous expensive nuclear plants. It will fuel cars, trucks, vans, buses, locomotives, aircraft, ships, tractors, engines of all kinds. It costs far less. It will help keep us out of more useless wars, where we shed our blood and money. It is used to make many products. It will bring jobs and boost our economy. It lowers CO2 emissions, and pollution. Over 5,200 select natural gas story links on my free blog. An annotated and illustrated bibliography of live links, updated daily. The worldwide picture of natural gas. Read in 75 nations. ronwagnersrants . blogspot . com
        Dave
        • 2 Years Ago
        @ronwagn
        Natural gas is a great resource. But it is finite and should not be squandered.
        JP
        • 2 Years Ago
        @ronwagn
        If we are going to use NG we should use it to replace coal, not burn it inefficiently in ICE's. http://ephase.blogspot.com/2011/02/why-not-natural-gas.html
      Smooth Motor
      • 2 Years Ago
      Do people complain in Europe about wind farm noise, bothering wildlife, ect? Or is that just a product of a hyper sensitive, lawsuit driven, USA market?
        EZEE
        • 2 Years Ago
        @Smooth Motor
        Here is a wildlife being bothered. http://youtu.be/jwVz5hdAMGU
      Ryan
      • 2 Years Ago
      Maybe they can start to build some EVs and other super hybrids (VW proved they can) to help me and tens of millions of others to get away from oil.
      Cavaron
      • 2 Years Ago
      Mh... this article sounds like the Merkel-government is super green. It is not. Merkel was all for nuclear power until Fukushima. By then the polls for the green party (oposed to Merkel) did rise sky-high and all of a sudden Merkel changed her mind. The clean-energy surcharge is partially used as a subvention for (mostly) private solar systems which sell their power to the grid. The rise in the surcharge went together with excludes for export-based businesses (carmakers are one of them, but maybe BMW did not apply for that, it's optional), which made the surcharge even higher for the paying rest including every private grid-power customer. This generated some bad publicity towards the solar energy business (like: these damn solar-cells raise my power bill!) and finally the Merkel-government could cut the fundings for solar systems extremely without much protest. Do I need to say that the large energy suppliers in Germany donate quite a lot to Merkels party and politicians from this party are often found in the board of directors from these energy suppliers after their political career?
        raktmn
        • 2 Years Ago
        @Cavaron
        Merkel changed the policies of the ruling coalition because Germany has a multi-party system where no single party holds an absolute majority. Changes in gov't policies to suit the demands of different parties is a characteristic of any multi-party system. It forces governments to be more flexible and responsive to the will of the people. In this case, green issues became very popular after Fukushima, and nuclear energy very unpopular. And due to Germany's multi-party system, the ruling gov't needed to respond to the will of the people. That's exactly how democracy should work. You do support democracy, where the will of the people has the power to change gov't policies, right? This is much better than how it works in the US, where the 2-party system means that if you really care about one policy of one party, you are forced as a voter to accept every single policy of that party. This puts Party power brokers in charge of setting important policy planks in the party, regardless of whether each individual policy plank is popular among the voters or not.
          EZEE
          • 2 Years Ago
          @raktmn
          In all seriousness, I am of the age where I have heard that nuclear power is evil and will kill us all, and all, nuclear power is safe and clean and will save us all. No wrong answer, but curious as to which side you are in (again, just curious).
          Cavaron
          • 2 Years Ago
          @raktmn
          Democracy is great. In the case of the nuke-plants it worked. I tried to say: The Merkel government is not green, only the peoples will forced them to do some green things. In other ways they try hard to not do green, because they have a selfish benefit. In fact, I see the donations from companies to politicians/parties (especially in the form of well paid job offerings) as a problem for the democracy, which should be dealt with (in a juristic regulated, not violent manner of course).
          EZEE
          • 2 Years Ago
          @raktmn
          But Ford Future has told us that the Republican Party has no good ideas at all so this is really a good thing. Because all good ideas come from the left and they don't need to be held accountable for their actions. Meanwhile, in other news, democrats slap new taxes on fuel efficient and electric vehicles....
      onyerleft
      • 2 Years Ago
      Um, no. It's not to get away from nuclear, it's to get away from paying high energy taxes.
        Dave D
        • 2 Years Ago
        @onyerleft
        But where do the higher energy costs come from that they are trying to avoid? From the government taxing energy higher to get away from the nukes. So it may be indirect, but they are doing all of this to help pay for the country to get away from nuclear power.
      Dave D
      • 2 Years Ago
      I can't wait till all the over hyped imaginations following Fukushima run their course and they find something else to freak out about. Why would anyone with half a brain be shutting down perfectly good nuclear plants if they're not on a fault line? What a bunch of frigging retards. They deserve the hardship. Hell, I'm a greenie who loves renewables...but this make ZERO sense.
        Spec
        • 2 Years Ago
        @Dave D
        Well . . . I don't think they are shutting them down. I think they are just not building new ones. Or am I wrong on that?
          Dave D
          • 2 Years Ago
          @Spec
          I hope you're right. I'm perfectly fine with that direction and adding other green alternatives. But I still think Thorium Reactors are being overlooked just because they are "nuclear" and could provide cheaper, safer long term green energy.
        Ford Future
        • 2 Years Ago
        @Dave D
        Haha. Good one Dave. All the children in a 25 mile radius from Fukushima developing Thyroid problems. Massive contamination of Fish, as Fuku dumps it's radioactive water into the sea. Core breach of nuclear material. Pollution reaching the CA coast. Nuclear has such catastrophic economic and health downside, especially with management failure to maintain the plant, it can't be taken serously as an energy source.
          Giraffe Sense
          • 2 Years Ago
          @Ford Future
          >> All the children in a 25 mile radius from Fukushima developing Thyroid problems... Sources?? I call BS. >> Massive contamination of Fish... IIRC, there was a slight bump above background radiation levels for fish, which quickly receded back to normal. >> Nuclear has such catastrophic economic and health downside.... Setting aside Chernobyl and possibly Fukushima, name them. You forget that nuclear also pumps out huge quantities of carbon-free energy, which have enormous economic and health upsides.
          paulwesterberg
          • 2 Years Ago
          @Ford Future
          I am an environmentalist and I agree that older nuclear plants are dangerous, but I don't think they should be shut down in favor of coal or natural gas plants because they continuously wreck the environment. I don't think that nuclear power should be avoided entirely, I think that throium reactors could be less dangerous and easier to shut down in emergency situations. Wind, solar, hydro, geothermal, ocean thermal, salinization all have great potential to power society. We should add a tax on carbon emissions which would help to promote the most efficient and reliable renewable energy source.
          2 wheeled menace
          • 2 Years Ago
          @Ford Future
          Problem with nuclear is that the plants are so incredibly expensive that if they are built on a fault line or other dangerous area, they can't be moved. I grew up next to a nuclear power plant built on a fault line. People have been protesting it before it was built, and 40 years after it was built. Millions of dollars have went into fighting it.
          Dave D
          • 2 Years Ago
          @Ford Future
          Note I said: "not built on a fault line". Fukushima was built in a VERY bad area.
        Cavaron
        • 2 Years Ago
        @Dave D
        Because even if the plants are technically ok (last plant in Germany was built in the 80s, so they are old), there is always a risk like in Fukushima (built in 70s, so only some years older), Tschernobyl and Harrisburg . Even if nothing happens, no one has a clue how to deal with nuclear waste which is emitting deadly radiation for ten-thousands of years. Even if you bury it, it can leak to ground water over the many years (uranium and plutonium is not only radiative, it is highly poisonous too). Also remember that Europe is much more crowded than the USA or Russia. In the long term nothing beats going all green. A huge investment now (well, building nuke plants is also expensive) but plenty of cheap energy in the future if the infrastructure stands.
      Letstakeawalk
      • 2 Years Ago
      We should use it in SOFCs to create electricity, hydrogen, and heat. Much better than burning it in a thermal plant.
      Levine Levine
      • 2 Years Ago
      When the anti-nuke Germans proposed tearing down the nukes several decades ago, the nuke industry propaganda incited fear and anxiety warning about brown-outs and black-outs. Today, Germany is almost nuke free as electrical power from alternative renewable sources have made up the difference. The gullible American people are not as astute as the Germans who brushed aside the nuke propaganda. The Japanese are beginning to see the wisdom of the Germans after the nuke-shima disaster. Unfortunately for the America, the nuke industry propaganda has the American people brainwashed.
        chechnya
        • 2 Years Ago
        @Levine Levine
        What's wrong with nuclear power? Nothing. You're just a Greenpeace sheep, brainwashed by the green power companies. I have nothing against green/wind/solar/etc but to say nuclear is bad, just shows how far from reality you are.
      Giraffe Sense
      • 2 Years Ago
      It seems a shame that no one in Germany has bothered asking why they shouldn't be shutting down their coal plants, instead of perfectly good nuclear plants. Guaranteed those coals plants are causing far more ill health and destruction to the environment...and that's in the normal course of operation! Pure hysteria and grand-standing.
        • 2 Years Ago
        @Giraffe Sense
        Nuclear power plants are easier to shut down by law. Because they endanger the country (in the case of breakdown). It´s not hysteria, its fight against lobby. In the case of breakdown you loose anything, it´s not insured (enough). http://www.versicherungsforen.net/fs/vfl/media/leistungen/studienundumfragen/versicherungsprmiefrkkw/20111006_NPP_Insurance_Study_Versicherungsforen.pdf
      Spec
      • 2 Years Ago
      Yeah, that is one thing that people need to appreciate . . . the government has no way of taxing the energy you generate for yourself. Well, at least not in the USA and not yet.
        throwback
        • 2 Years Ago
        @Spec
        When it comes to taxes, politicians are VERY imaginative.
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