FOCUS online report: Habeck was booed at the power giant – things are very different for Ricarda Lang

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Got it right away: Leag CEO Thorsten Kramer and Green party leader Ricarda Lang.

Ulf Lüdeke / FOCUS online
Photo 1/2 – Got it right away: Leag CEO Thorsten Kramer and Green party leader Ricarda Lang.

Green party leader Ricarda Lang meets trainees from Germany's second largest electricity producer Leag in Cottbus during her summer trip.

Ulf Lüdeke / FOCUS online
Photo 2/2 – Green party leader Ricarda Lang meets trainees from Germany’s second largest electricity producer Leag in Cottbus on her “summer trip”.


The polls are in the basement, the Greens are in crisis. Party leader Ricarda Lang starts her “summer trip” at the electricity giant Leag in Cottbus. Economics Minister Robert Habeck was booed here in February. However, Lang’s visit is surprisingly different.

For the trainees from Lusatia, Ricarda Lang appears out of nowhere on Monday morning. Many of the three dozen adolescents look puzzled when the 29-year-old walks past the “demonstrators” like a head of government.

Everyone carries a colorful sign in their hand. Slogans such as “Break new paths” or “What will become of us?” are written on it.

Going new ways – what should Ricarda Lang say about that? A trainee first has to see what kind of slogan is on his sign. It is the group’s first day of training. Ricarda Lang? Never heard.

After boos for Habeck, a lot of openness and curiosity for Lang

But the heads of training at the Black Pump industrial park of the Cottbus power giant Leag know exactly how important the visit from the Greens boss is. Because the Greens, as the second strongest traffic light party, are driving the conversion of energy production from fossil to renewable energy sources.

Robert Habeck, Green Economics Minister, Vice Chancellor and key figure in this mammoth project, was booed during his first Leag visit in February. Two months later, the waves are smoothed over.

Ricarda Lang, who, in contrast to Habeck, belongs to the left wing of the party, met with a lot of curiosity and openness on this muggy August day at the League in addition to emphatic requests.

“Habeck was here twice, but not much has changed yet”

One who gets straight to the point is Toralf Smith, who is the chairman of the general works council and the group’s supervisory board. “The energy policy of the federal government is not so clear to us at the moment. Habeck has been here twice, but not much has changed. But the young people here need a perspective”.

The confusion is great after the lignite power generation was even increased again because of the Ukraine war, training head Jörg Waniek lets the Greens boss know. And the fact that electricity now costs more in Germany than elsewhere in Europe does not encourage companies to invest in German locations either.

What Germany’s second-largest energy producer with around 7,200 employees needs is “more pressure” when paying out state compensation aid for the coal phase-out.

In order to master the switch to renewable energy sources, Leag urgently needs the state compensation payments that have been promised for the coal phase-out.

Because the EU in Brussels is blocking the payment of those 1.73 billion euros to Leag, Leag has still not been able to tender for the urgently needed gas and hydrogen power plants. Smith: “Habeck has to put more pressure on Brussels so that the money for our investments can finally flow.”

Green boss wants to introduce an industrial electricity price “in the next few weeks”

Ricarda Lang did not want to promise whether it would be possible to quickly break down the resistance in Brussels. However, she described a reduction in the industrial electricity price as “one of the central points that the federal government must decide in the next few weeks”.

However, the fact that the FDP has so far refused to subsidize industrial electricity has not escaped the attention of the Leag employees. “But you will still have to deal with Mr. Lindner,” commented a lady from the works council on Lang’s optimism.

After the visit to the training center in Spremberg, Lang paid a visit to the company headquarters in Cottbus, where she received remarkably warm words from company boss Thorsten Kramer. “I am extremely pleased that you are here.”

Lang is deeply impressed by the “Green Valley” in the former lignite area

Kramer, who has been the new CEO of Leag since the beginning of 2022, plans to transform the company into a modern power generator in a gigantic transformation. He wants to create a “Green Valley” from the lignite opencast mining areas, which will primarily generate CO2-free electricity with wind and solar systems and will be supplemented by gas and hydrogen power plants. Huge battery storage systems are also planned, and Leag is already investing one billion euros a year in the expansion of renewable energies.

Lang was openly impressed by the Leag CEO how the Greens are now being met in the debate on climate-friendly energy production. “Ten years ago alternative energy production was perceived as a threat. I didn’t feel any of that at all today.”

In the end, the electricity boss asked Ricarda Lang to sit on a black and green couch

And Kramer now certifies that the Green politicians would openly exchange ideas with the industry and explain their points of view. “That has never happened in the past.”

The fact that Kramer could also imagine doing this in another coalition in the future – at least that is what the colors of the sofa set, which had been placed in the company foyer especially for Lang’s visit, indicate. When asked by a journalist whether the colors black and green were a coincidence, Kramer says with a smile: “I had them put up here two days ago.”

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