Central instrument of the external energy policy strategy of the Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy

In view of Germany's high level of dependency on imports of energy sources and the threefold aims of the energy transition, the German government has entered into a number of bilateral energy partnerships with major energy-producing, transit and consumer countries in recent years.

The Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy has the lead responsibility for these partnerships, which are characterised by the following features:

  • they are based on a binding document governing their work: a joint declaration of intent signed at a high political level;
  • the practical cooperation takes place in the framework of a formalised structure of bodies;
  • the political orientation of the cooperation is delivered by a high-level steering group;
  • the specific project work takes place in bilateral working groups which hold regular meetings, with a large degree of input from the business community.

Further to this, in the partnerships with India, Morocco, Tunisia and China, an office has been established in the partner country to support the work of the bodies and to serve as a contact point for the stakeholders on both sides.

The aims of the energy partnerships

The main aim of the cooperation in 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 alleviate the global competition for ever scarcer energy commodities, and thus also enhances our long-term energy security.

In addition, the partnerships serve to improve the opportunities of German firms to export energy-efficient products and innovative energy-related installations. The partnerships thus also help to promote German exports.

The goals of the energy partnerships are to be achieved via a regular intergovernmental dialogue and the implementation of specific joint projects.

The joint projects can basically be divided into the following categories:

  • political backing for close-to-market investment and research projects;
  • support for energy-related projects with a reference 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. from 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.

Active participation by the business community in the working groups is desired. This gives companies the possibility to present their energy technologies as a contribution towards the solution of specific problems. Further to this, each energy partnership offers a networking platform for the initiation of bilateral corporate cooperation.

The added value of energy partnerships compared with other formats for cooperation can be found in the link-up between high-level government-to-government dialogues and specific, targeted project work involving the business community and the possibility of matchmaking sessions. In countries where the state has a dominant influence on commerce, it is especially important that problems of German and European companies with market access or cooperation and investment projects facing German and European firms can be addressed with the decision-makers on the partner side - including at a high political level.

Furthermore, the energy partnerships bring together the organisation of previously separate activities of different ministries, implementing organisations and the business community on both sides with a view to achieving more comprehensive and coherent energy cooperation. Where it makes sense, there can also be a dovetailing 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.

Also, under the umbrella of the energy partnerships, the interests of the private sector can be packaged with a view to developing solutions for market-access problems and barriers to investment which affect more than one company. 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 German-Norwegian energy cooperation, the German-Russian modernisation partnership (with its focus on cooperation on energy efficiency), the energy partnerships with Nigeria and Turkey as well as the "Desertec target countries" of Morocco and Tunisia. Negotiations with Algeria on the conclusion of a partnership are underway. Saudi Arabia has also announced its interest in closer energy cooperation with Germany.

Together with other ministries, the Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy maintains a number of bilateral energy partnerships with major consumer countries like India, China, South Africa and Brazil, since these countries are increasingly influencing the global consumption of fossil fuels and thus also the corresponding world market prices.