22 Feb 2023, 13:47
Carolina Kyllmann

East German region rejects earlier coal phase-out as econ minister presents funds for structural change

Zeit Online / Frankfurter Allgemeine

Regional representatives of the eastern German coal region Lusatia renewed their rejection of an earlier coal phase-out ahead of a visit by economy and climate protection minister Robert Habeck. The Green Party minister is visiting Lusatia to explore the transformation of eastern Germany’s largest energy company, Leag, which operates power plants and opencast lignite mines in Brandenburg and Saxony. “For our regional economy and the people of Lusatia, a hasty end to lignite-fired power generation means massive cuts and that calls into question the planned implementation of the entire structural transformation,” Harald Altekrüger, district administrator of Spree-Neiße, told news agency dpa in an article carried by Zeit Online. His district is home to three lignite mines. Leag head Thorsten Kramer also rejected the idea ahead of Habeck’s visit. “Before we talk about the phase-out, we have to ensure the expansion of renewable energy and a backup power plant park,” he told Frankfurter Allgemeine, adding that under the current conditions an earlier phase-out is out of the question. Habeck’s visit includes a meeting with Kramer.

Habeck is travelling to Lusatia to find out more about the implementation of energy transition projects in the area. This includes Leag’s ‘Gigawatt Factory’ project, which looks to develop an energy centre consisting of photovoltaic and wind power plants with a capacity of 7 gigawatts on former mining sites, as well as the building of a hydrogen-ready power plant. He presented a grant of around 28.5 million euros for the construction of a hydrogen storage power plant at the Schwarze Pumpe power plant. “The energy transition in Lusatia is moving forward step by step,” Habeck said, adding that investment in energy transition technologies “brings opportunities for a region that is hit particularly hard by structural change, and shows that Lusatia is shaping transformation in a very concrete way with its own ideas and projects.”

Germany's 2020 coal exit law stipulates that the country phased out coal by 2038 at the very latest. However, coal plant and mine operator RWE from western Germany agreed on a plan with Habeck's ministry to already end coal-fired power production by 2030 while temporarily using more coal power than initially planned due to the energy crisis. State representatives from eastern German coal regions on the other hand repeatedly have insisted pulling forward the phase-out by several years will not be possible as the regions lack both alternative energy generation capacities and economic perspectives for alternative sources of income.

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