02 Mar 2023, 14:08
Benjamin Wehrmann

Federal govt, eastern German states clash over supply security effects of 2030 coal phase-out

Die Zeit

The possible earlier coal phase-out in eastern Germany continues to lead to clashes between the federal government and state governments in the east, with views differing on how a coal exit in 2030 instead of 2038 would impact the country’s energy supply security, newspaper Die Zeit reported. Economy and climate minister Robert Habeck (Green Party) at a debate in the eastern coal mining town of Cottbus said the government “will not do anything that puts supply security in danger in [coal mining region] Lusatia, in eastern Germany or in Germany as a whole.” Pulling the phase-out forward, as it has been agreed for the western German state of North-Rhine Westphalia, would only happen once a safe alternative energy supply source has been made reliably available. The state premier of eastern Brandenburg, Dietmar Woidke from the Social Democrats (SPD), warned that the federal government “is biting the hand that feeds us all” by pushing coal power producers into an earlier phase-out. The country continues to need lignite as a power source and to keep energy prices affordable. Simply announcing exit years does nothing to speed up decarbonisation, he argued, adding that “We’ll never be as fast with our grid expansion as we’d need to be for a 2030 coal exit.” Saxony’s government head, Michael Kretschmer from the Christian Democrats (CDU), said a “valley of death” for energy policy that will cost the German economy dearly lies ahead if coal exit is implemented in 2030. “We see that the fundamentals of our prosperity are at risk,” Kretschmer said. Reiner Haseloff, CDU state premier of Saxony-Anhalt, said the government’s aims “are impossible to achieve due to technical and practical reasons.” Haseloff argued the 2038 exit date has been settled in a law. “Every debate outside of this law is illegitimate” for as long as this continues to be official policy, he said.

Brandenburg’s premier Woidke in February had signalled his readiness to discuss an earlier phase-out under certain conditions. Energy supply must be reliable and affordable, and have a certain degree of independence to keep added value in the country. The other two eastern mining region state premiers so far have remained more adamant in their rejection of exiting the fossil fuel in 2030, stressing that the nuclear phase-out and the uncertainties resulting from the energy crisis and Russia’s war in Ukraine require more safeguards for the energy system than previously planned. Habeck's ministry holds that exiting coal earlier poses no threat to the stability of the country’s electricity system, if renewables expansion is implemented as intended.

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