SPIEGEL Interview with German Environment Minister: 'Germans Are Willing to Pay' for Renewable Energies

Part 2: 'We Are In the Process of Massively Reducing Subsidies'

Photo Gallery: 'We Have the Situation Under Control' Photos
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SPIEGEL: The panel of experts on environmental issues, which reports to you in order to advise the government on the issue, also advocates strictly limiting subsidies for inefficient photovoltaic systems.

Röttgen: I'm more than happy to listen to the panel's suggestions, but in the end the responsibility lies with politicians like me, not the professors. We cannot destroy solar energy in Germany. Then it would have all been a waste of time. There would be massive economic losses and layoffs.

SPIEGEL: How expensive will the energy revolution be for normal people?

Röttgen: An average household pays a little more than €10 (about $13) a month to promote renewable energy. It shouldn't be much more than that, which is why we have to take advantage of all conservation options at this point.

SPIEGEL: Do you think it's fair that an average family living in a rented home has to pay more than €120 a year to finance the solar panels of homeowners?

Röttgen: All surveys show that Germans are willing to do this, because it's an investment in the future of our energy supply.

SPIEGEL: You believe that a family living on the Hartz IV welfare program (a reduction in welfare benefits for the long-term unemployed introduced by the government of former Chancellor Gerhard Schröder that provides around €374 euros a month to single, unemployed people) is happy to invest €120 a year to expand our country's energy supply?

Röttgen: I don't know. But the cost of electricity for Hartz IV recipients is a completely different issue that has nothing to do with what we're discussing. The German Renewable Energy Act is not an instrument of social policy.

SPIEGEL: German economic think tank RWI expects the burden on citizens to continue to grow, because you have not been able to get subsidies under control.

Röttgen: We are in the process of massively reducing the subsidies -- against strong resistance, by the way. This is one of the many alarmist reports that some are deliberately using to politicize the issue.

SPIEGEL: Only the environment minister is keeping a cool head.

Röttgen: First they were saying that electricity prices were going to explode. That didn't happen. Then we were warned that the grids would collapse -- wrong again. And there is also no indication that the alarmist reports about rising subsidy costs are true. Besides, we would make adjustments if this sort of development became apparent. Our proposal gives the federal government the ability to intervene quickly.

SPIEGEL: Why haven't Poland, the Czech Republic, France, the United States, Brazil, Russia and China recognized the signs of the times, choosing to stick with nuclear power instead?

Röttgen: Every country has to make its own decisions. But based on many conversations I've had, I know that the world is paying very close attention to the energy turnaround in Germany. There is enormous interest, and if an industrialized country like Germany manages the turnaround, it will rub off. I'm convinced of that.

SPIEGEL: Minister Röttgen, we thank you for this interview.

Interview conducted by Alexander Neubacher and Konstantin von Hammerstein. Translated from the German by Christopher Sultan.

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