Chancellor Angela Merkel says she is determined to make Germany's transition to non-nuclear sources of energy a success, as critics claim the government is moving too slowly to implement the necessary measures.
Chancellor Merkel and the leaders of Germany's 16 states pledged on Wednesday to push along the country's planned move from nuclear energy to renewable sources.
Speaking after meeting with state premiers, Merkel said: "We want it [the transition] to succeed," calling the switchover "a great task to which we all feel committed."
She said she plans twice-yearly meetings with all 16 state leaders to assess the progress of the conversion, while stressing that everything possible had to be done to avoid blackouts and ensure that energy remained affordable.
Merkel added that a master plan to reorganize the national power grid would be on the table by the end of the year.
In a major policy shift, Merkel said the government was planning legislation that would see utilities paid for holding gas- or coal-fired plants available to balance the grid when renewable energy sources were not sufficient, and not just for the electricity they produced.
Criticism from industry
Her remarks come amid criticism, particularly from industrial lobbyists, that the government has displayed a lack of coordination in implementing the planned transition, which envisages a nuclear-free Germany by 2022.
Business has also voiced concern that there could be power blackouts when all nuclear plants leave the grid.
Critics also say that the government is shying away from the necessary step of raising electricity prices to pay for new plants and the new grid. A survey released by consultants Putz and Partner on Wednesday showed that 62 percent of Germans are opposed to a rise in energy prices, although 69 percent are for abolishing nuclear power.
The increased reliance on wind power, a large part of which is produced in the north of the country, would also mean building high-voltage power lines through the countryside to transfer the energy to the rest of Germany. This has not found favor with environmentalists.
Bavaria to stand alone?
Meanwhile, the premier of the southern German state of Bavaria has threatened to go it alone on energy policy if the Berlin coalition does not quickly find solutions to its problems.
Horst Seehofer from the Christian Social Union, the sister party of Merkel's CDU, told the daily Süddeutsche Zeitung he intended to review previous agreements on abandoning nuclear power. In his comments, he said he did not rule out returning to a state-run energy provider.
Germany, which formerly received a quarter of its power from nuclear plants, decided a year ago to get rid of nuclear power amid public shock at the nuclear accident in Fukushima, Japan.
tj/sej (dpa, AP)