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Merkel minister backpedals on energy overhaul goals

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Germany‘s ambitious plans to dump nuclear energy and sharply cut carbon emissions at the same time may not be achievable, the key minister overseeing the plan admitted for the first time in an interview published Sunday.

Environment Minister Peter Altmaier, who was appointed by Chancellor Angela Merkel to fast-forward the overhaul, told the newspaper Bild am Sonntag, “It has to be questioned whether we‘ll really succeed in reducing electricity use by 10 per cent by 2010.

“If we are going to somehow managed this, it will take tremendous effort.”

Wooing environmentally conscious voters, the Merkel government decided last year to scrap nuclear power over the next decade, with cuts in power use and an expansion of wind- and solar-generated energy making up the difference.

Altmaier also admitted that plans to reduce carbon emissions by persuading Germans to switch from internal-combustion cars to electric ones were faltering.

Previously, the government had insisted that it was on track to put 1 million electric cars on German roads by 2020 and 6 million by 2030. At the start of this year, the total was just 4,541.

“We will conceivably have significantly fewer electric cars than has been assumed so far,” the minister was reported saying in the interview.

The opposition Social Democratic Party (SPD) immediately criticized Merkel. Party leader Sigmar Gabriel said: “He‘s admitting the government‘s energy overhaul has so far utterly failed.”

The SPD leader called for the government to set up a consultative institution where industry, consumer groups, the states and power suppliers could jointly draft proposals to accelerate the overhaul.

Germany‘s decision to go non-nuclear was prompted by the partial meltdowns of nuclear reactors at Fukushima, Japan after damage caused by a tsunami last year.

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