01 Nov 2023, 13:01
Carolina Kyllmann

German finance minister rejects 2030 coal exit without affordable and secure alternatives

Kölner Stadt-Anzeiger / Clean Energy Wire

Germany's finance minister Christian Lindner has rejected a coal phase out by 2030 if the country lacks affordable energy, newspaper Kölner Stadt-Anzeiger reported. "As long as it is not clear that energy will be available and affordable, we should end the dreams of phasing out coal power in 2030," the leader of the pro-business Free Democrats told the newspaper in an interview. "This date does nothing for the climate anyway as, due to European rules, the CO2 emissions saved in Germany are allowed to accrue additionally in Poland, for example," he added.

NGOs and climate experts have in the past expressed worries that the country’s coal phaseout would do nothing for the climate if the freed-up EU Emissions Trading System (ETS) allowances can be used elsewhere – a phenomenon often referred to as the “waterbed effect”. However, the German economy ministry has said repeatedly that it aims to delete the amount of ETS allowances freed up by the coal exit to avoid this effect. The Free Democrats (FDP) are part of Germany's three-way government coalition with the Social Democrats (SPD) and the Green Party. In their coalition agreement, the parties wrote that the coal phase-out should “ideally” be pulled forward to 2030, from the legal deadline of 2038. The western coal mining state of North Rhine-Westphalia has already agreed to phase out coal by the end of the decade, but federal states in Germany's east have been more critical of the move or outright rejected it. State premiers there insist that pulling forward the phase-out by several years will not be possible, as their regions lack both alternative energy generation capacities and economic opportunities for alternative sources of income.

Lindner also told the Kölner Stadt-Anzeiger that "now is not the time to shut down power plants," citing the high costs of energy due to its relative scarcity. He also spoke out against the economy minister's plan for an industry power price to help cushion comparatively high electricity prices for Germany's energy intensive industry. Lindner instead called for Germany to quickly expand renewable energy while also intensifying domestic gas production.

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