Is Germany set for another showdown on autobahn speed limits?

Germany’s Social Democrats (SPD) have changed their tune on autobahn speed limits - with new chief Saskia Esken in favour of their imposition.

Is Germany set for another showdown on autobahn speed limits?
Picture alliance/Marius Becker/dpa

The SPD wants to enter into a debate with their larger coalition partner, the Christian Democrats (CDU), about imposing a 130 km/h speed limit on the country’s highway network. 

The CDU has hit back however, with Federal Transport Minister Andreas Scheuer saying the government has bigger fish to fry in the climate debate. 

“We’ve got far more important tasks than putting this highly emotional topic in the shop window over and over again,” he said. 

“There is no (public) support for this at all.”

Esken, who took over the SPD leadership in December 2019, has said imposing speed limits will help Germany reach its climate targets, as well as improving road safety. 

“(Doing so would be a) free climate protection measure,” she said. 

Scheuer however told the German Press Agency that the debate had already been settled. 

“The Bundestag voted a few weeks ago and rejected a speed limit with an overwhelming majority,” he said. 

“We should act intelligently. It’s about better traffic control and guidance through digital technologies.”

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Norwegian battery start-up Freyr demands subsidies to complete factory

The Freyr battery start-up has halted construction of its Giga Arctic factory and demanded additional government subsidies, Norway's state broadcaster NRK has reported.

Norwegian battery start-up Freyr demands subsidies to complete factory

Jan Arve Haugan, the company’s operations director, told the broadcaster that the company would not order any more equipment until Norway’s government committed to further subsidies. 

“We are holding back further orders for prefabricated steel and concrete pending clarification on further progress,” he said. “We are keen to move forward, but we have to respect that there is a political process going on, and we have expectations that words will be put into action.” 

Freyr in April 2019 announced its plans to build the 17 billion kroner Giga Arctic in Mo i Rana, and has so far received 4 billion kroner in loans and loan guarantees from the Norwegian government. It has already started construction and hopes to complete the build by 2024-2025. 

Haugan said that the enormous subsidies for green industry in the Inflation Reduction Act voted through in the US in 2022 had changed the playing field for companies like Freyr, meaning Norway would need to increase the level of subsidies if the project was to be viable. 

Freyr in December announced plans for Giga America, a $1.3bn facility which it plans to build in Coweta, Georgia.   

“What the Americans have done, which is completely exceptional, is to provide very solid support for the renewable industry,” Haugen said. “This changes the framework conditions for a company like Freyr, and we have to take that into account.” 

Jan Christian Vestre, Norway’s industry minister, said that the government was looking at what actions to take to counter the impact of the Inflation Reduction Act, but said he was unwilling to get drawn into a subsidy battle with the US. 

“The government is working on how to upgrade our instruments and I hope that we will have further clarifications towards the summer,” he said.

“We are not going to imitate the Americans’ subsidy race. We have never competed in Norway to be the cheapest or most heavily subsidised. We have competed on competence, Norwegian labour, clean and affordable energy and being world champions in high productivity.”