* Expert report says efficiency targets at risk
* Energy key policy before 2013 election
* Experts criticise row on CO2 emissions certificates
By Markus Wacket
BERLIN, Dec 18 (Reuters) - Germany’s government must do more to achieve its energy efficiency targets and keep up the momentum in its shift to renewable power, a group of independent experts said in a report seen by Reuters.
Commenting on a separate report on progress towards renewable energy targets to be considered by the cabinet on Wednesday, the experts from a group of German research institutes said policy had to be given more urgency if the government was to achieve its aims.
Since Chancellor Angela Merkel’s abrupt decision to accelerate the phase-out of nuclear energy after last year’s Fukushima disaster, Germany has been struggling to coordinate an ambitious switch to renewables and to save energy.
A year before elections in which Merkel will seek a third term, the conservative chancellor is keen to demonstrate to voters that her energy initiative, seen by many as her most important domestic policy, has been a success.
Her cabinet will discuss the report on progress towards self-imposed targets for renewables to account for 35 percent of total power production in Germany by 2020 and to reduce power consumption by 10 percent by 2020.
The group of independent experts, also set up to give advice on strategy, has made its own assessment of that report, acknowledging energy efficiency had improved in the last few years.
“But the speed and intensity must be increased significantly ... to achieve the improvements in energy efficiency that are aimed for,” the experts said, highlighting shortcomings in the transport and building sectors.
The report, seen by Reuters on Tuesday, said the government, which aims to have 1 million electric vehicles on the road by 2020, should not concentrate too much on electric cars, which are not free of environmental issues, but should look at a more comprehensive mobility plan, including aspects of public transport.
The panel also criticised the government’s handling of proposals to improve the CO2 emissions certificates market, where a row within Merkel’s centre-right coalition has helped prevent the European Union from taking a decision on reform proposals.
The European Commission has proposed temporarily withdrawing some of the surplus of carbon allowances caused by Europe’s economic downturn, which has triggered a collapse in the price of Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS) carbon certificates.
The ETS is supposed to be a cornerstone of EU policies to tackle climate change, but while Germany’s Environment Ministry has backed the idea, the Economy Ministry opposes it.
Although the expansion of Germany’s renewable power sector was going well, there was no room for complacency, said the experts, especially on wind energy. And they said more had to be done to expand the capacity of the power grid in southern Germany, to help prevent possible blackouts.
The BDEW energy industry association said on Tuesday renewables accounted for about 23 percent of power generated in Germany this year, up from about 20 percent last year.
Wind is the biggest renewable source, providing about 45 billion kilowatt hours of power in 2012, or 8 percent of the assumed total volume.
Opposition parties have made much of higher household electricity bills, in particular the near doubling of a charge to fund the switch to renewables which is paid by consumers.
“Now it is pretty much official: the government is endangering the energy revolution and unnecessarily burdening consumers,” said opposition Social Democrat Ulrich Kelber, in a statement issued in response to the experts’ report. (Writing by Madeline Chambers; Editing by David Holmes)