Crimea spurs German rethink on energy policy

Crimea spurs German rethink on energy policy

BERLIN - Current tensions with Russia over Ukraine have turned the spotlight on Germany's heavy dependence on Russian gas and are pushing Europe's biggest economy to reconsider its entire energy policy.

It is currently Germany's aim to be able to meet as much as 80 per cent of its energy needs from renewable sources such as wind and solar power by 2050. The country is also committed to phasing out nuclear power completely over the next decade or so.

And gas - 35 per cent of which Germany imports from Russia - should act as a good stop-gap until the country's renewable capacity is fully in place.

But with the crisis over Ukraine and the threat of a tit-for-tat battle of sanctions, Germany may have to reconsider its energy policy.

Some, like the environmentalist Greens party, insist the country should step up its renewable drive while others say that alternative sources of gas must be found.

Last week, Chancellor Angela Merkel said the Ukraine crisis would lead to "a new look at energy policy as a whole".

Some people have interpreted this seemingly anodyne remark as a hidden call to reconsider Germany's plans and targets for the energy transformation, formulated by Merkel herself three years ago.

Others suggest that the remarks - made in the presence of Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper - could herald an about-face on the highly controversial technology of fracking.

Fracking in spotlight

At a joint news conference, Harper said that Canada was prepared to export its natural gas.

But that could prove problematic in a country where there is deep popular - and political - opposition to hydraulic fracturing for shale oil and gas.

"If the chancellor is eyeing imports from North America, that would constitute a clear 'yes' to the use of fracking," said one of Merkel's former ministers, the conservative Peter Ramsauer.

And "that, in turn, would beg the question, why not tap our own domestic resources", he said.

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