The ballot as oko receipt

Energy policy could also play a decisive role in the hamburg city elections. The planned moorburg coal-fired power plant acts as a testing ground for partisan politics

On 24. In february, 1.2 million hamburg residents will vote for a new city council. The cdu and its popular mayor, ole von beust, are still in power with an absolute majority, but this comfortable situation is likely to change. The spd sends schroders former minister of state for culture michael naumann into the race as a supposed all-inclusive candidate, hopes after the good result in hesse for a continuation of the waiting trend and otherwise counts on the support of the traditionally strong gal. The fdp not only wants to enter the bourgeoisie, but also the government, and the left party can probably look forward to its fourth west german success within a short period of time.

It is difficult to say at this point which bill will ultimately be successful. However, the party-political power relations seem to resemble those in hesse, and the focal points in terms of content do not differ significantly either – if one disregards roland koch’s idiosyncratically staged special ies. In addition to minimum wages and the shaping of social justice, budget consolidation and questions of internal security, the ies in hamburg are also the abolition or retention of education costs and, above all, energy policy. These days, the focus of public interest is not on the nuclear mailers in krummel, brunsbuttel or brokdorf, but on two power plant units that have not even been built yet.

The project

However, if the beust government and the energy giant vattenfall have their way, the far-advanced plans will be put into practice as soon as possible. By 2012, the operator plans to build a modern hard-coal-fired power plant with 1.Build 654 mw of electric capacity and up to 450 mw of district heat extraction. The moorburg plant will take over the district heating supply from the wedel combined heat and power plant, built in 1962, and provide the hanseatic city with investments worth a good two billion euros. During the construction phase, the group plans to operate 2.000 jobs, 375 jobs are to be created by the operation, and the local ig metall trade union even expects up to 6.Safeguard 000 jobs in the port of hamburg and the region.

According to the operator, the power plant will be able to achieve an efficiency of just over 46.5 percent in pure electricity generation and increase fuel utilization up to 61 percent in cogeneration. The average values of the local coal-fired power plants are currently around 38 and 44 percent, respectively. In addition, germany is to reduce its co2 emissions by 2.3 million tons thanks to moorburg.

A few days ago, the department for urban development and the environment published an agreement between the free and hanseatic city of hamburg and vattenfall europe, which has since been the subject of heated controversy and was apparently negotiated at the same time as the approval of the early start of construction in november 2007. According to the agreement, the operator undertakes to install outlet cooling to reduce the warming of the elbe river and to expand the district heating network to veddel, wilhelmsburg and harburg, which will increase the power plant’s district heating capacity from 450 megawatts to 650 megawatts. In addition, an "innovative co2 capture plant" is to be installed. However, the agreement leaves open when this will happen. In § 2, there is only talk of an "earliest possible date", whereas the majority of experts – including those at vattenfall – ame that the technical prerequisites for effective, marketable and series-ready co2 capture will not be in place until 2020. Nevertheless, the authority considered the operator’s commitments to be "considerable voluntary contributions" that went far beyond "what could be demanded on the basis of the applicable law in the context of the approval procedures".

The protest

The construction of a new coal-fired power plant met with energetic opposition as early as the presentation of the plans. Environmental associations and action groups consider the project to be ecologically questionable, ineffective from an energy point of view, and absolutely superfluous. "Robin wood" points out that despite the undoubtedly increased efficiency, the two blocks in moorburg still emitted 8.5 million tons of co2, more than twice as much carbon dioxide as all of hamburg’s road traffic.

Greenpeace also considers the plant "grossly oversized. Under the given circumstances, only a small part of the waste heat could be used, almost half of the energy used "fizzles out uselessly". Last summer, the "bund fur umwelt und naturschutz deutschland" already submitted an extensive "objection to the planned moorburg hard coal-fired power plant", in which a large number of legal, ecological, technical and economic arguments against the new power plant are asserted. However, the objection, referring to a study by the bremer energie institut and the arrhenius institute for energy and climate policy, also points out supraregional problems. A calculation published in may 2007 predicts that much more electricity will soon be produced in northern germany than can be purchased and consumed locally.

Northern germany cannot be considered in isolation as a region. In particular, the predicted expansion of offshore wind farms will lead to a significant oversupply of electricity in the region, ruling out regional solutions. The possibility of offsetting such energy surpluses and deficits regionally through the use of energy storage appears clearly limited.

Development of the energy supply in northern germany

Therefore, it seems highly questionable to the researchers whether the existing capacities can be fully used in the near future and whether new facilities will be needed on the planned scale.

Against the background of the expected overcapacities, the question arises whether all planned power plant capacities will actually be realized at the respective scale and at the planned locations, or whether there will be a reduced expansion of fossil capacities. The growing competitive situation – not least due to the priority regulation for wind power – can lead to poorer operating conditions and thus to a different assessment of the economic viability of a plant. The generation technologies do not represent independent factors due to their specifically different effects on the power plant park.

Development of energy supply in northern germany

Instead of new mammoth power plants, environmental activists are calling for increased use of renewable energy and the construction of decentralized combined heat and power plants or modern combined cycle gas turbine (ccgt) plants with combined heat and power generation.

Parties and programs

Die gal wurde hamburg gern zur "model region for renewable energy and energy efficiency" and die linke thinks anyway that corporations like vattenfall or eon should be "should be under public control".

Meanwhile, the social democrats are trying an offensive balancing act. In the basic program adopted at the federal party conference last october, the situation for the comrades still seemed to be clear.

We want to get away from oil and other exhaustible energies where we depend on imports. As a bridge to the solar energy age, we rely on modern coal- and gas-fired power plants with highly efficient use of combined heat and power generation.

Spd policy statement, october 2007

With regard to the upcoming burgerschaftswahl spd top candidate michael naumann now recommends to read the just quoted pas "carefully". Coal does play a role in the energy mix, but not in hamburg and certainly not in moorburg. The senate has urged vattenfall without necessity to double the originally planned capacity of 800 mw and thus initiated a "decrease that is not justifiable from the point of view of climate protection".

We social democrats advocate a smaller power plant, preferably gas-based, and otherwise decentralized combined heat and power plants. The senate is not able or willing to formulate a coordinated energy policy between the northern german states. (…) when it comes to a coordinated energy policy, it is pointed out that we were only allowed to look at hamburg. However, this is nonsensical when you know that coal-fired power plants in a rough order of 3200 mw are planned for the lower elbe and schleswig-holstein wants to generate 7500 mw from wind power plants at the same time.

Michael naumann

Even within the cdu, word got around that it could be unwise to unconditionally side with the energy giant. Rudiger kruse, spokesman for sustainable development for the cdu’s parliamentary group in the german bundestag, was already exercising caution months ago




Vattenfall simply has a legal right to build the coal-fired power plant in moorburg. An old power plant is replaced by the latest power plant technology, and that’s good for a start.

Rudiger kruse

The chairman of the cdu parliamentary group in hamburg, bernd reinert, also wanted to make it clear "that it is not the senate that wants to build the power plant, but the company vattenfall," and top candidate ole van beust would prefer to present hamburg as a "green city thanks to a black government" and therefore refers – if at all – only to the supposedly good climate balance of the new power plant.

Election day

The election tactics are not without reason, since the last ballots, as well as referendums and citizens’ referendums, have shown that landmark energy policy decisions have an astonishing mobilization potential.

The powerful rwe group, for example, had to shelve its prestige project in ensdorf in the saarland after over 70 percent of the 5.600 residents entitled to vote had voted against the construction of a new coal-fired power plant.

Protest groups have already formed at practically all other locations where such power plants are being built or planned, reminding some observers of the anti-nuclear movements of the 1980s. Corresponding examples can be found in krefeld, duisburg, berlin, mainz or lubmin. How many more would be added depended on whether the energy companies were planning 20, 30, 40 or just nine new plants, as environment minister sigmar gabriel amed at the end of november 2007.

Andrea ypsilanti, who appointed the controversial spd energy expert hermann scheer to her shadow cabinet in hesse, recently discovered that the search for alternative energy sources can have a positive effect on election results. Conversely, lower saxony’s minister of education and cultural affairs bernd busemann (cdu), who had openly supported the construction of a coal-fired power plant in dorpen in the emsland region, experienced an unpleasant election evening. Busemann lost 18.7 percentage points in constituency 82 (papenburg), but was able to defend his direct mandate because the strongest opponent (klaus fleer/spd) was content with 19.9 percent. But even around dorpen, the cdu/csu suffered some dramatic losses of votes, which in some municipalities amounted to more than 20, 30 or even more than 40 percent.

The burgerinitiative saubere energie (clean energy citizens’ initiative) considered the result a "clear vote" against the construction of the new coal-fired power plant: "this is a very conscious protest."So it is quite possible that the resistance against new power plant constructions, as far as they serve conventional energy production, will still influence many an election decision.

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