German industry power prices up 3.7% since 2008
In February, German environmental organization Deutsche Umwelthilfe (DUH) held a press conference on how German industry is faring under the switch to renewables – against the backdrop of charges that higher power prices will scare away energy-intensive industry. Today, we sum up the findings, which have not yet been widely distributed in English.
Since 2011, critics of Germany's energy transition have argued that the country is going to scare away its energy-intensive firms. In its Fact Check (see this PDF in German), the DUH addresses some well-known concerns: power prices for industry are "around 40 percent more expensive" in Germany than in France and the Netherlands and nearly 15 percent higher than the EU average.
First, the organization found that the price difference between Germany and the EU-27 has actually not changed significantly over the past five years and has even dropped since rising slightly in the second half of 2011. The price gap therefore predates the sudden nuclear phaseout of March 2011.
Likewise, French industry power prices have been consistently lower than those in Germany in recent years, and the gap has been wider than it currently is. The DUH comments, "The question is why the difference in price between Germany and France is now suddenly an indicator for the effects of the energy transition."
The organization also found that the price difference between the Netherlands and Germany has fluctuated historically and actually shrank in the first half of 2012. Overall, however, the Netherlands is the only country investigated which seems to show a clearly widening gap in industry power prices since the nuclear phaseout of 2011. The DUH attributes that change to greater Dutch imports of power from Germany; in other words, German power exports to the Netherlands are the reason why the gap is widening.
Prices in Italy and the UK were also investigated. The Italians turn out to have reliably higher industrial prices in Germany, while the price gap has fluctuated between Germany and the UK in recent years, with power sometimes being cheaper in Germany.
The DUH rebuts a claim that German industry power prices rose by 40 percent from 2007 to 2012, pointing out that the methodology in the statistics on which that claim is based changed in the second half of 2007. Adjusted for that change, German industry power prices rose by a mere 3.7 percent (see chart) from 2007 to 2012 – and a mere 16 percent going back to 1995.
As Renewables International pointed out last year, other energy prices have risen much more steeply. For instance, the DUH estimates that industry prices for natural gas rose by between 22 and 32 percent from 2007 to 2012. (Craig Morris)