26 Jun 2018, 13:20
Benjamin Wehrmann Julian Wettengel

Conflicting appeals as Germany's coal commission gets down to work

Clean Energy Wire

Germany has provided inspiring and visionary leadership on energy and climate for many years, but is now at risk of being left behind, according to former US Vice President Al Gore. While stakeholders met for the first session of Germany’s coal exit commission, the renowned climate activist called on its members to make a decision “truly of historic nature” – to phase out coal. Gore said in Berlin that Germany being left behind “sounds out of sync with what our impression is based on the wonderful policies that Germany put in place several years ago that lifted the world toward success in this energy transition.” But the country had not succeeded in reducing greenhouse gas emissions for four years. “Of course, the nuclear issues have played a role, but of course the political and economic power of the coal industry has played a role,” he said. Gore, founder and chairman of Climate Reality, is in Berlin for three days to train more than 600 activists to become leaders within their communities supporting climate action efforts.

For background, read the CLEW article Commission watch – Managing Germany’s coal phase-out and the factsheet Germany’s coal exit commission.

Note: The Clean Energy Wire will publish an article on this topic later today.

Clean Energy Wire

The phase-out of coal-fired power production in Germany must become a model case for other countries that want to reconcile economic prosperity with an effective reduction of greenhouse gas emissions, economy and energy minister Peter Altmaier (CDU) has said at a public appearance with coal state leaders in the eastern German coal mining region of Lusatia. “The countries that are able to do it have to show developing countries how CO2 output can be lowered. Countries like Germany must take the lead here,” Altmaier said.
He said it is important for the commission tasked with planning Germany’ coal exit and with finding economic prospects for the affected regions to demonstrate that the state can manage the situation, and that things can get better after fossil fuels have been phased out. “This structural economic change we’re facing here is different from previous changes, which were all driven by economic development. This structural change is based on a global political decision,” Altmaier said.
He reiterated his idea that Lusatia could benefit from a European initiative for battery cell production on the continent, adding that he would seek to achieve an exemption from EU subsidy law. Michael Kretschmer (CDU), state premier of the coal state of Saxony, said the “key question” regarding Germany’s coal exit was “how to turn a lignite region into an innovation hub.” His counterpart from the neighbouring coal state of Brandenburg, SPD politician Dietmar Woidke, positioned himself as a protector of the region’s mining heritage. “Those who call lignite a climate killer insult the people of this region,” Woidke said.

For background, read the CLEW article Commission watch – Managing Germany’s coal phase-out and the factsheet Germany’s coal exit commission.

Economy Ministry of Brandenburg

The economy ministers of the German coal states Brandenburg, Saxony, and North Rhine-Westphalia (NRW) have warned the country’s coal exit commission against coming up with “hasty” scenarios for phasing out fossil power sources. In a press release issued on the eve of the coal exit commission’s inaugural meeting, the ministers - Albrecht Gerber from Brandenburg, Martin Dulig from Saxony (both CDU), and Andreas Pinkwart (FDP) from NRW - said that a coal exit scenario recently published by Germany’s Federal Network Agency (BNetzA) appeared to be “politically motivated,” and could “influence the debate within the commission at our expense” by making “unrealistic assumptions” about the power grid. The three ministers said the commission’s task was not merely to plan the end of coal-fired power production, but also to prevent severe economic disruptions in coal regions. “Nobody must jump to conclusions concerning a coal exit date,” Brandenburg’s minister Gerber said. 

Find the press release in German here.

For background, read the CLEW article Commission watch – Managing Germany’s coal phase-out and the factsheet Germany’s coal exit commission.

Der Tagesspiegel

The 2030 emissions reduction target defines the duty and objectives of the commission tasked with planning Germany’s coal exit, climate economist Barbara Praetorius said in an interview with Der Tagesspiegel. “The 2030 climate targets are set, they provide a starting point and a framework for the commission’s work,” the commission’s co-leader said. Praetorius said the commission would do “everything” to ensure that the ambitious end-of-2018 deadline by which it is expected to present an end date for coal will be met. “The people in the affected regions need clarity about what will happen to them,” the former deputy head of the energy think tank Agora Energiewende said. Praetorius stressed that phasing out coal requires a societal consensus. “We will have to come up with proposals which give the regions confidence in a future after coal,” she said.

Read the interview in German here.

For background, read the CLEW article Commission watch – Managing Germany’s coal phase-out and the factsheet Germany’s coal exit commission.


The premiers of the German coal mining states of Saxony and North Rhine-Westphalia (NRW) have said they still plan coal mining activities to continue well into the 2040s. In a guest article published in the Handelsblatt on the day of the first meeting of Germany’s coal exit commission, Saxony’s Michael Kretschmer and NRW’s Armin Laschet (both CDU) cited studies that suggest that Germany could still reach its climate targets without an “accelerated” exit from coal-fired power production. Kretschmer and Laschet stressed that supply security, low power prices, and clear-cut economic prospects for coal workers and regions after the phase-out were the key factors for the commission to consider. “If all these factors are adequately considered, then there’s a chance that there will be a proposal in the end that can find broad acceptance,” they said.

Find the article in German here (paywall).

For background, read the CLEW article Commission watch – Managing Germany’s coal phase-out and the factsheet Germany’s coal exit commission.

Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research (PIK)

If the Paris Agreement’s targets are to be met, future CO₂ emissions must be kept within a finite budget, and the more this budget is overrun, the more relevant carbon dioxide removal technologies will become – and those come with great uncertainties,” writes the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research (PIK) in a press release. “Negative emissions are no longer a choice but rather a necessity,” said PIK’s Gunnar Luderer, author of a study on residual fossil CO₂ emissions in 1.5-2°Celsius pathways. Around 640–950 gigatonnes of CO₂ removal is required for a chance to limit end-of-century warming to 1.5°C, write the authors.

Read the press release in English here, the study in English here, and watch a video in English here.

Frankfurter Rundschau

Solar PV expansion in Germany could reach the government’s goal of 2.5 gigawatts annually for the first time this year, Carsten Körnig, managing director of the German Solar Association (BSW), was quoted as saying in an article written by Thomas Magenheim for the Frankfurter Rundschau. Falling prices for the technology itself and for battery storage act as a stimulus, while political restrictions are holding back the further expansion of solar PV in the country, said Körnig at the opening of the Intersolar conference in Munich.

Buy the e-paper version of the Frankfurter Rundschau (in German) here.

For background, read the CLEW article Auctions bring German solar power price to new record low.


German utility E.ON has finalised the sale of its fossil power spin-off Uniper to Finnish energy company Fortum, E.ON has said in a press release. Company CEO Johannes Teyssen said the sale marks the end of a chapter in E.ON's history. “We wish Uniper – and thus our former colleagues – every success for the future.” Teyssen said his company would now focus on becoming “the leading provider of intelligent energy networks and modern customer solutions in Europe.”

Read the press release in English here.

Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung

As the European Union is preparing to introduce new rules that will limit CO2 emissions from cars and vans between 2021 and 2030, environment minister Svenja Schulze has called for these limits to be strict. “The transport sector is our problem child,” she said at a 25 June meeting of the EU member states’ ministers in Luxembourg. But transport minister Andreas Scheuer, who reportedly opposes Schulze's call for stricter limits, said over the weekend: “We do not need arbitrary, political/ideological limits, but rather technically feasible limits.” The European Commission has proposed gradual CO2 emissions reductions of 15 percent by 2025 and 30 percent by 2030, compared to 2021 levels. A final decision has not yet been reached.

Read the article in German here.

For background, read the article German environment ministry pushes for tougher EU car emission rules.

Federal Statistical Office of Germany (Destatis)

Germany’s manufacturing industry and the services sector earned 70 billion euros in 2016 in sales of goods, construction material, and services related to environmental protection, according to a press release issued by the Federal Statistical Office (Destatis). The largest revenues came from areas related to climate protection, specifically the development of renewable energies and measures for improving energy efficiency. In the same year, around 251,000 people were actively employed in the area of environmental protection in Germany.

Read the press release in German here.

For background, read the dossier The energy transition’s effects on the economy.

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