18 Jan 2021, 13:52
Sören Amelang

German hard coal imports set to continue steep decline in 2021 - industry group

Clean Energy Wire

Last year's sharp drop in Germany's hard coal imports is set to continue this year as the country has started to phase out the fossil fuel, the country's coal importer association VDKi has said. Imports will drop by 19 percent to around 27 million tonnes, the lobby group predicted. Imports for power generation will even fall by 27 percent to 15.5 million tonnes, while imports for steelmaking will only show a minor decline, the group said. Lower energy use during the pandemic and competition from renewables and natural gas led to a drop of 10.4 million tonnes or 24 percent to 32.8 million tonnes in hard coal import volumes last year, the VDKi said. Hard coal-fired power generation fell 26 percent in 2020 to a third of the 2015 volume. The association criticised the design of Germany's tenders for the withdrawal of coal generation capacity in the framework of its coal exit, because not the oldest power plants are taken offline first as a result but the youngest and most modern ones.

Last year, renewables produced more power than all fossil fuels combined in Germany for the first time. In combination with record-low energy consumption due to the coronavirus pandemic, higher CO₂ and lower gas prices, plus a mild winter, this has led to a 10 percent decrease in emissions. Overall, renewables produced 45 percent of Germany’s electricity as the pandemic-driven decrease in consumption and cheaper gas power “heralded the end of coal,” according to the think tank Agora Energiewende*. Germany has decided to exit coal by 2038 at the very latest. Following its first phase-out auction for hard coal, plants commissioned as recently as 2015 were taken off the grid at the end of the year, illustrating the difficult economic conditions faced by operators.

*Like the Clean Energy Wire, Agora Energiewende is a project funded by Stiftung Mercator and the European Climate Foundation.

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