The aim of the fund would be to strengthen the region’s economic attractiveness and its desirability as a place to live. It should help to: preserve the region’s industrial character, strengthen innovation among its businesses, support its academic institutions, equip it with an up-to-date transport network and digital infrastructure, and foster a lively civil society that retains local residents while also attracting new ones.
In each of these areas, it should be possible to use the available funds in a flexible manner (i.e. to shift funding between areas), and funds that are not withdrawn should not expire (i.e. funding should be transferable to subsequent years).
Raising the attractiveness of a region means more than just promoting its economy, academic institutions and infrastructure. Ultimately, the vibrancy of a place depends on art, culture, lived traditions and the quality of civil society. These factors require ongoing support, which can be guaranteed in the short term through the Structural Change Fund and in the long term through developing a foundation with a strong endowment.
It enjoys broad public support and is driven by four main political objectives: combatting climate change, avoiding nuclear risks, improving energy security, and guaranteeing competitiveness and growth.
Wind and solar energy are now cost-competitive with conventional energy sources for new investments. These technologies, however, impact power systems, making increased system flexibility crucial. Fossil power plants currently deliver the needed flexibility; increasingly other options (demand side management, storage,… ) will become more important.
Given the transformative nature of the Energiewende, investment, growth, and employment are shifting towards new low-carbon sectors. Renewable energy and energy efficiency are providing several hundred thousand jobs, while jobs in the nuclear and coal sectors are declining. A broad consensus on the phasing out of coal is needed to accompany this restructuring process.
In 2014, for the third year running, worldwide investment in new renewable capacity exceeded investment in fossil-fuel power. Many other countries in Europe and beyond have set ambitious renewable energy targets. The challenges faced by Germany are therefore a preview of what is likely to occur in several other countries in the medium to long-term.
The reason for this paradox is not to be found in thedecision to phase out nuclear power – the decrease of nuclear generation is fully offset by an increasedgeneration from renewables. Rather, the paradox is caused by a fuel switch from gas to coal.
Since 2010, coal and CO2 prices have decreased, whilegas prices have increased. Accordingly, Germany’s coal-fired power plants (both new and old) are able to produceat lower costs than gas-fired power plants in Germany and in the neighbouring electricity markets thatare coupled with the German market. This has yielded record export levels and rising emissions in Germany.
Sharp decreases in generation fromlignite and hard coal of 62 and 80 percent, respectively, are expected in the next 15 years while theshare of gas in electricity generation will have to increase from 11 to 22 percent. This goes in line with thegovernments’ renewables and climate targets for 2030.