Eastern German coal state leaders launch joint call against earlier coal phase-out
Coal mining states in eastern Germany have warned that the energy crisis makes an early phase-out of the fossil fuel too risky for the country’s energy supply. “Lignite is needed now and for the foreseeable more than it has rarely been needed before to secure Germany’s energy supply,” the state premiers Dietmar Woikde from Brandenburg, Michael Kretschmer from Saxony, and Rainer Haseloff from Saxony-Anhalt told chancellor Olaf Scholz in a joint letter, reported newspaper Die Welt. The state premiers criticised the federal economy and climate ministry under Robert Habeck for “exerting pressure directly and indirectly in many ways to compel eastern German coal companies to seek an early phase-out”. Habeck’s ministry tried to "motivate" eastern German companies with financial incentives to achieve an early phase-out similar to that of western coal mining state North Rhine-Westphalia (NRW), said the letter. NRW had announced it will end coal-fired power production by 2030, eight years before the ultimate end date for coal in the country decided in 2020. The ministry's actions would undermine the entire consensus Germany had reached with respect to its coal phase out, the state premiers said. They argued that the uncertainty regarding closure dates currently caused a lot of concerns and financial risks for people in eastern coal mining regions, while the energy crisis and the loss of Russian gas at the same time created a difficult energy security environment for Germany as a whole. Instead of debating exit dates, the country should engage in a debate about “expanding secured capacity, grids and storage”.
The government decided on ending coal no later than 2038 after an extensive consultation process with stakeholders from coal regions, environmental groups and industry that stipulated shut-down sequences and financial support and compensation mechanisms for affected regions and businesses. Western coal region North Rhine-Westphalia had early on signaled its readiness to complete the phase-out of coal faster than other mining regions, where coal is often a much more important sector for local economies. In order to secure additional power generation capacity in the European energy crisis, the government earlier this year ordered the temporary re-activation and delayed decommissioning of coal plants to replace gas in the power system.