Lignite mine Garzweiler, operated by German energy company RWE. Photo: RWE AG.
Dossier
29 Nov 2019, 11:00
Germany's coal phase-out

Europe's largest economy aims to exit coal to reach climate goals

Germany has officially set in motion the gradual withdrawal from coal, joining other major economies in the global farewell to the climate-damaging fossil fuel. Faced with stagnating greenhouse gas emissions despite a rapid expansion of renewable power, Chancellor Angela Merkel’s grand coalition set up the expert coal exit commission to come up with a plan. The task force recommended shutting the last coal-fired power plant by 2038 at the latest. It is now up to the government to move on the proposal and mould it into legislative drafts before parliamentarians get the final say. Electricity generation from coal has long served German industry, supplied whole regions with jobs and wealth, and to date remains a pillar of the country’s energy supply. Clean Energy Wire compiles background and follows the process of Germany’s coal exit. [UPDATES factsheet on next steps in coal exit process, adds facstheet on coal exit law draft.]

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German government implements the coal exit proposal

Implementing Germany’s coal exit proposal – the road ahead

Germany's coal exit commission has agreed on a proposal on how the country can manage to phase out its single largest source of greenhouse gas emissions by 2038, and the ensuing political decision-making process is in full swing. Chancellor Angela Merkel's government coalition has to decide how to implement the non-binding proposal and is drafting necessary legislation. Many details have yet to be worked out and ultimately decided by parliamentarians in a process that could last well into 2020. In this factsheet, Clean Energy Wire lays out the basics of the ongoing political process to translate the German coal exit into action.

 

Spelling out the coal phase-out - Germany’s exit law draft

Germany plans to phase out coal-fired power generation by 2038 at the latest, and the government has now prepared a draft law detailing an exit plan. The document stipulates auctions for operators of hard coal plants to take capacity off the grid according to the government’s timetable. But the draft leaves out the key question of how to deal with lignite plants, as the government is still in talks with operators about compensation payments for the shutdown of plants and mines. The law has yet to be agreed by the cabinet, and will then be sent to parliament for the regular legislative process. This factsheet explains key contents of a draft dated 11 November 2019.

The coal commission proposal

Energy transition home country Germany eyes a phase-out of coal power by 2038 at the very latest, as the country tries to get back on track to create a climate-friendly economy. In its highly anticipated phase-out proposal, the country’s coal commission said the world’s fourth largest economy could also wean itself off coal by 2035 if conditions are right. The deal, which was sealed after a 20-hour negotiation session, was welcomed by most NGOs, researchers, and business associations. But climate activists said the pace of the exit was too slow and therefore violated international climate targets. Germany’s government has signalled a swift process to assess the coal exit commission’s proposal and start the law-making process.

Article: Germany eyes coal exit by 2038 in bid for climate-friendly economy

The coal exit commission agrees its highly anticipated phase-out proposal on 26 January after a 20-hour negotiation session. It recommends to phase out coal power by 2038 at the very latest. Read the full story.

Factsheet: German commission proposes coal exit by 2038

The final report of Germany's coal exit commission sets out a pathway for the country to phase out the fossil power source and make progress on its slow emissions reductions. Clean Energy Wire summarises key proposals in this factsheet.

Open pit lignite mine Reichwalde. Photo: Leag.

Article: German government stands ready to move on coal exit proposal

The German government is ready to quickly supply financial means for the country’s exit from coal. It will now examine the details of the proposal agreed by the coal commission in order to set the law-making process in motion. Read the full story.

Parliamentarians debate the coal exit proposal in a plenary debate in the Bundestag in January 2019. Photo: Bundestag.

Article: Relief about German coal exit deal fades as focus turns to implementation challenges

The initial relief in Germany over a coal exit deal has given way to fresh discussions over how to implement the hard-won compromise. In a first Bundestag debate on the proposal, parliamentarians made clear they will have the last word on all coal exit law-making. Read the full story.

Coal in Germany

Power generation from coal has long served German industry, and despite Germany’s reputation as an ecological role model, the cheap, carbon-intensive fossil fuel is still an important pillar of the country’s power supply. In 2018, 22.5 percent of electricity was generated from lignite, 12.8 percent from hard coal. The country shut its last hard coal mine in 2018, but it is still the biggest producer of lignite in the world. Germany has three active lignite mining regions, where many jobs and livelihoods depend on the fossil fuel. To date, opencast lignite mining has altered 179,490 hectares of countryside in Germany. Since 1924, 313 settlements have been lost to lignite mines in the country.

Coal is still an important pillar of Germany's power supply. Photo: [Kovalenko Inna] - Fotolia.

Factsheet: Coal in Germany

Germany is still the biggest producer of brown coal in the world but shut its last hard coal mines in 2018. This CLEW factsheet compiles background information on the lignite and hard coal industry in German.

Factsheet: Germany's three lignite mining regions

This CLEW factsheet gives an overview of Germany's three active lignite mining regions, their history, and economic dependence on coal.

Article: Germany bids farewell to domestic hard coal mining

On 21 December 2018 the mining of hard coal officially came to an end in Germany. The closing of the last mine in the Ruhr region marks the end of 200 years of mining the fossil fuel that made Germany’s industrialisation possible. Read the full story.

The long road to Germany's coal exit

The German government has long shied away from ringing in the end to coal-fired power generation. In 2016, Germany’s Climate Action Plan 2050 – which details how the country is to become close to carbon-neutral by mid-century – failed to set a deadline, but said climate targets could only be reached if coal-fired power generation is reduced step-by-step. It also proposed launching a commission to manage the phase-out of coal by reaching a broad consensus.

In their 2018 coalition treaty, Angela Merkel’s conservative CDU/CSU alliance and the Social Democratic Party (SPD) decided to put the Climate Action Plan proposal into action and launch the “Commission on Growth, Structural Change and Employment”, which quickly became known as simply the coal exit commission. Over several months, commission members held discussions in closed-door meetings. Clean Energy Wire followed the process and summarised key developments in the Commission Watch.

Factsheet: Germany's Climate Action Plan 2050

Germany’s basic framework for largely decarbonising its economy to reach 2050 climate goals includes target corridors for reducing greenhouse gas emissions in individual economic sectors and emphasises the need to ensure economic competitiveness throughout the transition. CLEW’s factsheet gives an overview of the agreed plan.

Coal commission leaders Pofalla, Platzeck, Praetorius & Tillich (left to right) with energy minister Altmaier (2nd from left). Photo - BMWi / Susanne Eriksson.

Factsheet: Germany's coal exit commission

The coal exit commission is supposed to find economic perspectives for coal workers and regions, spell out measures to reduce carbon emissions in line with Germany's climate targets, and name an end date for coal-fired power production. The CLEW factsheet explains the details.

Article: Commission watch - Managing Germany's coal phase-out

CLEW’s commission watch traced the progress and public perception of Germany's coal exit commission from the day it was launched to the publication of its final report.

Factsheet: Climate, energy and transport in Germany's coalition treaty

Concluding weeks of intensive negotiations, Germany's government partners agreed on a coalition treaty in early 2018. In this factsheet, the Clean Energy Wire presents excerpts on climate, energy and transport from the agreement between Chancellor Angela Merkel's conservatives (CDU/CSU) and the Social Democrats (SPD).

All texts created by the Clean Energy Wire are available under a “Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International Licence (CC BY 4.0)” . They can be copied, shared and made publicly accessible by users so long as they give appropriate credit, provide a link to the license, and indicate if changes were made.

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