11 Dec 2023, 13:24
Sören Amelang

German operator “very optimistic” to run eastern lignite mines past 2030 phase-out aim

dpa / Süddeutsche Zeitung

East German coal mine operator LEAG has said it expects to extract lignite from its opencast pits past 2030, even though the government hopes to exit coal by that date. “We are very optimistic that we will produce coal in the region into the 2030s,” said company CEO Torsten Kramer, according to a report by newswire dpa published in the Süddeutsche Zeitung. Germany’s coalition government promised to try to bring the coal phase-out forward "ideally" to 2030 from the official 2038 target, but eastern coal mining state premiers have repeatedly rejected the proposal. They insist that pulling forward the phase-out by several years will not be possible as the regions lack both alternative energy generation capacities and alternative sources of income. Economy and climate protection minister Robert Habeck has repeatedly expressed his support for an earlier coal exit in the east of the country following an agreement with coal plant and mine operator RWE to exit coal power in western Germany by 2030.

The European Commission on Monday announced that it found a 2.6 billion euro support package for RWE to compensate the company for the early phase-out of its lignite-fired power plants in the Rhenish mining area to be in line with EU State aid rules. Under the same scheme, the government has earmarked 1.75 billion for the LEAG installations in the Lausitz, for which a decision by the European Commission is still pending.

Just under a year ago, LEAG's Kramer had said that he could imagine his company would no longer be dependent on coal in 2033 if supply security is ensured and hydrogen-ready gas power plants are connected to the grid at LEAG’s four sites in Lusatia and the Central German mining area to replace existing coal plants. Because this was not yet the case, the legally enshrined coal phase-out date of 2038 applied to the company, he said.
In the week before, Hendrik Wüst, state premier in the western coal state North Rhine-Westphalia, stated that he considers the agreed 2030 phase-out in the state to be at risk if no concrete action is taken on building up gas-fired power production capacity quickly.

LEAG plans to become a green electricity operator and Kramer said the company is making “giant strides” towards this goal, adding that planning for PV solar and wind farms had been finalised. Construction of the first large PV park with a capacity of one gigawatt will begin next year, he said. By 2030, seven gigawatts of PV and wind power plants on post-mining sites should be able to reliably supply four million households with green electricity, and capacity should increase to almost 14 gigawatts by 2040, with LEAG planning around 70 percent of the PV capacity and 30 percent of the wind turbines, according to the article.

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