Europe: Wind-sceptic article rebuffed

A report that questions the effectiveness of carbon emission trading systems and the use of renewables to drive down global greenhouse gas emissions, published in popular German news magazine Der Spiegel, has been dismissed by Germany's environment ministry as perpetrating "the usual intended confusion".

The EU's emissions trading system (ETS), which has been operating since 2005, determines the total amount of CO2 that can be emitted by power companies and industry, and this amount remains fixed, says the article. Therefore, new wind turbines and solar cells have not prevented the emission of even a single gram of CO2, it argues.

The report echoes views expressed in a recent study, The economic effects of support for renewable energies: experience in Germany, released by the RWI Essen economics research centre.

Refuting the claims, the environment ministry points out that the caps on CO2 emissions in the ETS take into account the effect of Germany's renewable energy law. "Without the planned effect of the renewable support law, the upper emissions limits would of course have been set considerably higher," says the environment ministry. Germany's most recent CO2 emission figures, released by the federal environment office Umweltbundesamt and relating to emissions in 2007, prove the effectiveness of supporting renewables, it says.

Carbon saving

Germany's net CO2 emission in 2007 was 824 million tonnes. It would have been significantly higher without the use of renewable energy - the figures reveal that its use led to a net saving in CO2 emissions of 106 million tonnes, of which 67 million tonnes was attributable to renewables use in the electricity sector. The calculation takes into account the whole production chain, including emissions from the transport and manufacture of wind turbines, notes the ministry. In a forecast of growth in electricity from renewables to 2030, released in 2008, the ministry predicted CO2 savings of 89 million tonnes in 2010, rising to 110 million tonnes in 2015, 136 million tonnes in 2020 and 177 million tonnes in 2030, thanks to electricity supported under the renewable energy law.