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22 Jan 2020, 13:26
Julian Wettengel

Draft coal exit law tightens reins on German hard coal

Clean Energy Wire / Die Welt

Germany’s hard coal power plant operators criticise the government’s phase-out plans, as the relatively late shutdown dates for lignite facilities likely mean earlier closures for hard coalreports Daniel Wetzel in Die Welt. Local utility association VKU – whose members operate many of Germany’s hard coal units – says the lignite deal, which also includes billions in compensation for operators, comes at the expense of hard coal, writes Wetzel. The latest draft of the government’s coal exit law, seen by the Clean Energy Wire, prescribes equal annual reductions of total capacity. That means that in years in which a smaller amount of lignite capacity is set to go offline, more hard coal plants will be shut down and vice versa. As a large amount of lignite capacity is set to be left in the market until as late as 2038 – the ultimate deadline in Germany – hard coal would have to be gone by then. In addition – and in a departure from earlier versions – the draft stipulates that utilities would be forced to deactivate hard coal power plants already by 2024 if not enough closures happen voluntarily through the planned auctions. These auctions, in which coal plant operators can tender capacity volumes to be taken offline and define the amount of money they demand for the closure, will be used until 2026, after which date the government will organise shutdowns solely by law – largely based on the age of the plants.

The government, mining states and utilities had agreed a shutdown schedule for lignite operations, with many plants set to go offline much later than scientists and environmental NGOs had called for. In its landmark 2019 compromise, the multi-stakeholder coal commission had recommended the “steady” reduction of lignite capacity. A group of former coal commission members says the agreed shutdown schedule clearly violates the coal compromise and demands that the plan is adjusted to bring about quicker emissions reduction and comply with the country's climate targets.

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