With the survey of the energy economist Claudia Kemfert and the management consultant Friedbert Pfluger, the investigative committee of the MV Climate Foundation questioned how the decision to build the Nord Stream 2 pipeline came about. There was only agreement on a few points on Friday. Both experts tried to explain in the Schwerin state parliament what the pros and cons of the pipeline were like in 2015.
According to Kemfert, even without the construction of the pipeline, there would have been no gap in the availability of natural gas in Europe. Pfluger, on the other hand, said that natural gas projects such as Nord Stream 2 were necessary at the time. In 2015, an EU scenario predicted an almost constant gas demand, but at about the same time a drop in production in Europe was foreseeable. An import gap of 70 to 100 billion cubic meters of gas was expected for around 2020.
The DIW expert, on the other hand, referred to an underutilization of existing liquefied natural gas (LNG) terminals of only around 25 percent and to free capacities on the gas transit pipeline from Russia through Ukraine.
From Kemfert's point of view, the construction of the pipeline was pushed by Russia not for economic but for geostrategic reasons. An infrastructure was to be created to avoid the transit of Russian natural gas through Ukraine. From the researcher's point of view, however, this was not economical.
The cost of building the pipeline of 17 billion US dollars would have been offset by assumed savings in transit fees of 700 million euros annually. Kemfert referred both to findings by a Norwegian research group and to an analysis by Russia's Sberbank, according to which the project was unprofitable from a Russian perspective.
Pfluger does not rule out the fact that geostrategic reasons prompted Russia to support the Nord Stream 2 pipeline. Nevertheless, from the perspective of 2015, it was not foreseeable that Russia would fail as a reliable supplier. Pfluger did not think it likely that Gazprom would have invested money in an uneconomical project. He put the annual savings from the elimination of transit fees in Ukraine at 2 billion euros. In addition, according to Pfluger, the Ukrainian network would have had to be upgraded to use the free capacities, which he believes would have been more expensive than the new construction in the Baltic Sea.
On Friday, the management consultant emphasized several times that one had to put oneself in the perspective of the time and not judge with today's knowledge. At that time, he too had already worked to find alternative suppliers to Russia, but there were no competitive ones.
Due to high demand in Asia, for example, liquefied natural gas (LNG) from the USA was significantly more expensive than Russian pipeline gas. Pfluger, Chairman of the Supervisory Board of the "Zukunft Gas" industry association, said he had campaigned for an LNG date in Germany, but no investor wanted to book long-term capacities at the time for cost reasons.
From a climate policy point of view, the energy economist Kemfert warned of impending climatic tipping points in the next decade. The climate-damaging effect of natural gas, which consists largely of methane, has long been significantly underestimated. Since 2016 at the latest, however, there have been robust scientific findings. The new construction of gas infrastructure is not compatible with the climate goals, this binds to the use of the corresponding technology in the long term.
With regard to the energy transition, Pfluger questioned whether the expansion of renewable energies could keep up with the increasing power consumption, for example through e-mobility or heat pumps. In his opinion, gas will continue to be needed here to generate electricity.
While the Greens questioned Pfluger's legitimacy as an expert in the survey, the SPD accused Kemfert of having consistently refused. The chairman of the Social Democrats, Thomas Krüger, described it as strange when "usually only monosyllabic or with meaningless phrases" were answered.
He accused Kemfert of not doing justice to the concrete challenges of 2015 with her scientific plea for renewable energies. The CDU defended Kemfert against this criticism: "Politics may follow criteria of power, science follows the distinction between truth and untruth," said its chairman Sebastian Ehlers.