SPD energy politician sees end of lignite power by 2040
Germany’s last lignite-fired power plant will go off-line by 2040, the Social Democratic energy politician Bernd Westphal said at an event of innogy, the renewables spin-off of utility RWE, which owns many of the country’s lignite plants. But the move towards a climate-friendly economy should not be reduced to a coal exit, said Westphal, who has been among the first in his party to call for discussions about a renewal of the coalition with Chancellor Angela Merkel’s conservative CDU after her talks with Greens and pro-business FDP had collapsed. The question of the speed and starting point of a coal exit has been one of the most controversial issues during the coalition talks. Westphal said a new model to finance the energy transition was necessary in order to bring all sectors – power, transport and heating – together in so-called sector coupling. “With the Renewables Energy Act alone, we won’t achieve that,” the SPD politician said. Some form of a carbon price to create a level playing field for all forms of energy could be a solution. However, Westphal warned against moving too fast. “We should not overdo it otherwise we drive industry abroad.” Westphal also voiced doubts that e-mobility was the panacea in transport. The country should remain open to other technologies and factor in leaps in innovation. Speaking at the same event, innogy CEO Peter Terium urged the government to speed up the move to renewables, which were cheap now and should not be punished for rising costs in the first phase of the energy transition. Terium also stressed that investment in local and regional distribution grids were far more important for a decentralized and increasingly digital electricity system than the construction of the much-contested transmission power lines.
Get background on Westphal’s view from the pre-election interview. Find the options considered to finance renewables in a factsheet. The dossier connecting up the Energiewende provides details of the debate about power grids.