In view of Germany’s high level of dependency on energy commodities and the three-pronged approach upon which the energy transition is built the German government has in recent years entered into a number of bilateral energy partnerships with major energy-producing, transit and consumer countries.

The energy partnerships are part of the remit of the Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy and are characterised by the following features.

  • Each of the partnerships is based on a binding document that takes the form of a memorandum of understanding signed at a high political level;
  • Cooperation at a practical level takes place within a formalised structure of dedicated groups;
  • The political orientation of the cooperation is determined by a high-level steering group;
  • The specific project work takes place in bilateral working groups which meet on a regular basis and with significant involvement from the business community.

Further to this, offices have also been established in India, Morocco, Tunisia, Turkey and China under the energy partnerships with these countries. These offices support the work of the relevant bodies and serve as contact points for the stakeholders on both sides.

Aims of the energy partnerships

The main aim of cooperation within the energy partnerships is to support the expansion of renewable energy and the wider use of efficient energy technology. This helps both to mitigate climate change and to ease the global competition for ever scarcer energy commodities, and thus also enhances our long-term energy security.
In addition, the partnerships serve to improve opportunities for German firms to export energy-efficient products and innovative energy-related installations. The partnerships thus also help to promote German exports.

There is to be regular intergovernmental dialogue and specific joint projects are to be implemented in order to ensure that the goals of the energy partnerships are met.
Cooperation projects can be divided into the following basic categories:

  • Political backing for close-to-market investment and research projects;
  • Support for energy-related projects linked to climate change mitigation and development cooperation, which can be used to demonstrate German technology solutions and individual aspects of the energy transition (e.g. funding provided by the German Climate Technology Initiative, the International Climate Initiative and German development cooperation);
  • Discussion of fundamental issues, particularly in terms of the economic policies governing mutual market access, investments and corporate cooperation in the energy sector;
  • Support and advice for the partner countries on issues of the energy industry and on regulatory and technological aspects.

The working groups are designed to encourage active participation by the business community. This gives companies the opportunity to present their energy technologies and explain how these can be used to solve specific problems. Further to this, each energy partnership has a networking platform designed to help companies enter into bilateral cooperation.

The added benefit of energy partnerships compared with other formats for cooperation is that it links up high-level g2g dialogue and specific, target-driven project work involving the business community, whilst also providing opportunities for b2b matchmaking. In countries where the state has a dominant influence on commerce, it is especially important that problems faced by German and European companies with regard to market access, cooperation and investment projects can be raised with the decision-makers on the partner side, which also includes those in the upper political echelons.

Furthermore, the energy partnerships provide an umbrella structure for what used to be separate activities conducted by different ministries, implementing organisations and the business community on both sides .The aim in this is to make the activities being undertaken by energy partnerships coherent and more comprehensive. Where it makes sense to do so, the various activities can also be dovetailed with development and technical cooperation and Germany’s instruments to promote foreign trade and investment. This has to be examined on a case-by-case basis.

The energy partnerships can further be used to bundle the interests of the private sector with a view to developing solutions for market-access problems and barriers to investment which affect a whole number of companies. This can reduce the amount of time and money which individual companies need to spend on efforts to develop markets.

The main focus of the practical cooperation with major energy supply and transit countries is on providing political backing to projects of German and European investors and importers to secure our energy supply. In particular, this includes projects to further diversify the countries and transport routes supplying our energy needs.

Examples of energy partnerships

Examples of existing energy partnerships include the German-Norwegian energy cooperation, the German-Russian modernisation partnership (focusing on cooperation on energy efficiency), the energy partnerships with Nigeria and Turkey (in German) and the partnerships with Northern African countries Morocco (in German), Tunisia (in German), and Algeria (in German). Saudi Arabia has also declared an interest in closer energy cooperation with Germany.

Together with other ministries, the Economic Affairs Ministry maintains a number of bilateral energy partnerships with major consumer countries like India, China, South Africa (in German) and Brazil (in German), which account for a growing share of the global consumption of fossil fuels and hence have a growing influence on world market prices for these commodities.