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‘The question now is not whether nuclear energy is clean,but is it sustainable to provide power?’

In Germany,22 per cent of power comes from nuclear energy.

Written by Neha Sinha |
June 6, 2009 1:42:07 am

Yesterday was World Environment Day. Recently in India for a ‘Carbon Bazaar’ organised jointly by Germany and India’s Ministry of Environment and Forests,FRANZJOSEF SCHAUFHAUSEN,Deputy Director General of the German Federal Ministry for the Environment,Nature Conservation and Nuclear Safety,spoke to NEHA SINHA on Indo-German co-operation on climate change,nuclear energy,and the responsibility of the developed world on emission cuts.

•Some countries,including India which has just signed a major nuclear energy treaty,believe that nuclear energy,which is not heavily carbon-intensive,should be included in Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) projects for earning carbon credits. As part of a ministry which deals with both nuclear safety and environment,what is your position on this?

In Germany,22 per cent of power comes from nuclear energy. But Germany is trying to phase out nuclear energy and we don’t support nuclear energy becoming CDM projects. We have scientific studies on the table showing that it is possible to have a future without nuclear energy. We had a very long discussion in Germany on nuclear energy. The question now is not whether nuclear energy is clean,but is it sustainable to provide power? The position of the German government is that nuclear energy is too risky. At the moment in Europe,we don’t have the possibility to store the very dangerous nuclear waste which is produced from nuclear energy. Also uranium is limited. We have to construct an energy future working with energy efficiency and renewable energy.

•As a developed country,and also as part of the European Union’s Emission Trading Scheme,what is your perspective on developed countries taking the harshest cuts to combat climate change? What are your hopes from the upcoming Copenhagen Climate Change Summit?

We are hoping for a very ambitious agreement in Copenhagen,which means that the developed world has to commit to very ambitious aims. One cannot compare a country like Germany with a country like India — we have to accept the common but differentiated responsibility. Germany stands by the EU commitments of cutting 20 per cent of greenhouse gas emissions based on 1990 by 2020,irrespective of what happens in Copenhagen. We are also saying that if Copenhagen is a success,we will go for 30 per cent cuts. Further,in Germany,we have a commitment that we will reduce emission by 40 per cent by 2020 based on 1990 levels. We have done our homework and have a climate change action plan in place since 1990. We have had a reduction of 23.4 per cent emissions by the end of 2008. This shows that an industrial country is capable of reducing emissions even with economic growth!

•You are saying that economic growth and reduced emissions can go together. So is it feasible to penalise free private industry,which may be big emitters?

People say that we will have job losses if there are ambitious climate change cuts. But this is not true. Studies have shown that 40 per cent cuts will be possible,and will alongside create additional jobs in the new sectors that will come up,like renewable energy. We have an inter-ministerial group which works with all sectors,like foreign,defence,and agricultural sectors on mitigating climate change. We also prioritise renewable energy,by giving a 20 year price guarantee for suppliers. And in Germany,we are already penalising heavy emitters. So we are saying,if you are a polluting industry,like glass or steel,you can function,but you have to buy allowances,which is basically an emission right.

•Germany has been helping states in India,like Delhi,to get CDM projects together. Are there meeting points in the energy scenarios between the two countries?

Like India,50 per cent of German power needs are met by coal. Also,like India,we have a heavy dependence on energy imports. Compared to India for renewables like solar energy though,we are worse off — Germany only has 900 hours of sunlight a year. India and Germany both need to reduce energy imports. If we have energy efficiency,we will have energy security. We are interested in working with developing countries in the field of climate change,and so we are dealing with China,Brazil,India and African countries like Tunisia,Algeria,Egypt. India has a lot of potential in solar,biogas and wind energy. But compared to developed countries,Indian average energy productivity has to be improved.

•How can India improve energy productivity?

A lot of people mix energy with the power sector. But there’s more to energy than the power sector. For example,with regard to energy efficiency,if I am producing one tonne of steel or one square metre of glass,I can do it more efficiently by using less energy. In Germany,we are now using a technology called combined heat and power production. This means we produce heating while producing nuclear or fossil fuel power. Currently,11-12 per cent of heat production in Germany is through combined heat and power production. For India,cooling can be provided during power production. If you produce power now,two-thirds of the energy is wasted,only one-third becomes power. Through combined production and energy efficiency technologies,that two-thirds input can be used for other purposes,like heating or cooling.

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