03 Jun 2020, 13:25
Sören Amelang

German coal exit 'overtaken by reality,' country must prepare for earlier phase-out – NGO

Clean Energy Wire

The sharp decline of coal use in Germany this year shows that the country's plan to exit the fossil fuel by 2038 has been "overtaken by reality," according to environmental NGO E3G. "Developments in the economy, politics and finance and the effects of the COVID-19 crisis suggest that Germany must prepare for a much earlier coal phase-out," write Rebekka Popp and Alexander Reitzenstein in a blog post. They argue that 90 percent of Germany's coal plants were not profitable last year, and that the coronavirus crisis has exacerbated the situation as the share of coal power dropped to a record low of 16 percent in April. "If renewables are expanded rapidly, it is likely that Germany can and, for economic reasons, must phase out coal earlier," the authors write.

"If Germany does not want to lose its chance of a regulated coal exit, the German government must prepare scenarios for an earlier coal exit well before 2038. This is the only way to give employees and regions planning security," the blog says. The authors argue the possibilities for review anchored in the coal exit act must enable an earlier exit so that coal is not kept alive artificially at high cost. "If the coal exit law is implemented as planned, there is a high risk that it will not be possible to react flexibly to economic and political changes. This must be prevented in the interests of employees and regions."

A slowing economy and mild weather lowered Germany's energy demand significantly in the first quarter of 2020. Recent data also confirmed that renewable energy sources accounted for more than half of the electricity fed into Germany's power grid over the full quarter — the first time this has happened. Germany has officially set in motion a gradual withdrawal from coal, but key parts of the necessary legislation are still missing. Experts recently criticised the government's proposed coal exit law for deviating from the compromise the coal commission had found.

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