Crimea spurs German policy rethinkComment on this story
Berlin - Current tensions with Russia over Ukraine have turned the spotlight on Germany's heavy dependence on Russian gas and are pushing Europe's biggest economy to reconsider its entire energy policy.
It is currently Germany's aim to be able to meet as much as 80 percent of its energy needs from renewable sources such as wind and solar power by 2050.
The country is also committed to phasing out nuclear power completely over the next decade or so.
And gas - 35 percent of which Germany imports from Russia - should act as a good stop-gap until the country's renewable capacity is fully in place.
But with the crisis over Ukraine and the threat of a tit-for-tat battle of sanctions, Germany may have to reconsider its energy policy.
Some, like the environmentalist Greens party, insist the country should step up its renewable drive while others insist that alternative sources of gas must be found.
Last week, Chancellor Angela Merkel said the Ukraine crisis would lead to “a new look at energy policy as a whole.”
Some people have interpreted this seemingly anodyne remark as a hidden call to reconsider Germany's plans and targets for the energy transformation, formulated by Merkel herself three years ago.
Others suggest that the remarks - made in the presence of Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper - could herald an about-face on the highly controversial technology of fracking.
At a joint news conference, Harper said that Canada was prepared to export its natural gas.
But that could prove problematic in a country where there is deep popular - and political - opposition to hydraulic fracturing for shale oil and gas.
“If the chancellor is eyeing imports from North America, that would constitute a clear 'yes' to the use of fracking,” said one of Merkel's former ministers, the conservative Peter Ramsauer.
And “that, in turn, would beg the question, why not tap our own domestic resources,” he said.
With parliament yet to give its green light to the general use of fracking, the technology's advocates, above all industry, never tire in pointing to the comparatively high cost of energy in Europe.
That, they argue, is due to the fact that fracking is not currently allowed.
And they hope that the current debate over Germany's dependence on Russia gas will advance their cause.
But Economy and Energy Minister Sigmar Gabriel and Environment Minister Barbara Hendricks, both centre-left Social Democrats, have firmly shut the door on such a prospect.
“In no case do we want fracking,” Hendricks said last week, while Gabriel suggested there was “no sensible alternative” to Russian gas.
The issue is sufficiently important to be on the agenda of an energy summit on Tuesday evening between Merkel, Gabriel and the heads of Germany's 16 regional states.
Berlin is counting on a deep reform of its system of subsidies for clean energy, currently the cornerstone of the country's energy transition.
A corresponding draft law, one of Merkel's key projects during her third term in office, is to be approved by cabinet on April 9. But the draft has come under heavy scrutiny on the part of the regional states who take issue with subsidy cuts.
“We mustn't expect all differences to be ironed out” on Tuesday, said Merkel's spokesman Steffen Seibert.
Gabriel wants substantial reductions in subsidies for renewables, so as to bring down consumers' electricity bills. - Sapa-AFP