German elections, energy policy, and the leaders to watch in possible new government

German elections 2021

An unclear coalition and a climate in crisis— here’s a look at the German election.

Germany held national elections this past Sunday, marking the end of a 16-year-long center-right led government, as Chancellor Angela Merkel of the Christian Democratic Union steps down. And while it seems the center-left Social Democratic Party has the edge with a slim plurality, it’s not enough to be the obvious coalition leader. It will likely be weeks, if not months, until Europe’s most economically and politically powerful country puts a governing coalition in place.  

What stood out during this election cycle are three clear signs showing that climate and the energy transition were top of mind for the German people. 

The way the results broke down, Germany’s Green Party and Free Democratic Party (FDP) have a lot of sway in coalition building right now.

The Greens and the FDP are in a position to choose which bigger political partner they might prefer in a coalition government. Analysts expect that the Greens could claim ministerial responsibility for environment and transport—key ministries for climate policies—whereas the FDP could claim the ministry of the economy. 

Key person to watch: The Green Party’s Robert Habeck.

Climate and the energy transition loom large for a new governing coalition

From Euronews: Major political parties back solar and wind solutions, but according to local experts and policymakers, red tape and angry locals are slowing down change. One expert explains that Germany’s energy transition is a political battlefield with very slow permit procedures and many legal actions filed. 

Much of the tension around rolling out new energy in Germany includes land use disputes for future solar parks and wind farms, and the need for an updated and efficient legal framework to settle them. 

In a country where the per capita greenhouse gas emissions are higher than its European neighbors, greater efforts will be needed, according to the OECD. Regardless of the future makeup of a new German government, climate change will be top priority. 

Keep an eye on the ripple effects of how Germany handles its relatively slow digital transformation

No longer up for debate is the fact that a digitalized society and industry will be vital enablers of Germany’s energy transition. According to recent market reports, German utilities regard the coordination of decentralized energy generation, efficient power use, and grid flexibility as the most important fields for applying digital technologies in the German energy sector. 

The OECD has recommended that Germany better incentivize investments in both public and private digital infrastructure, and faster connectivity, to prevent falling terminally behind

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