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19 Sep 2019, 13:17
Julian Wettengel

German voters would prefer coal phase-out earlier than 2038 – study

Clean Energy Wire

Voters in Germany would have supported a coal phase-out much earlier than 2038, the date proposed by the country's coal exit commission earlier this year, according to a study conducted by the Institute for Economy and the Environment at the University of St. Gallen and published in Nature Energy. The researchers, Adrian Rinscheid and Rolf Wüstenhagen, investigated whether the coal commission's proposed timeline is in line with voters' preferences, as some members had criticised the plan for not being ambitious enough. Using a large-scale online survey of 2,161 Germans, the researchers assessed voters’ preferences for different policy design options to phase out coal, looking at the end date, costs and job effects. "Scenarios with 2025 as an end date have a significantly higher probability of being supported than policies with later end dates," they wrote. Germans are also sensitive to the cost of a coal phase-out. Every increase of 10 euros per household in annual cost (or about 400 million euros per year for the German economy as a whole) decreases public support by about seven percentage points. "In light of our findings, the German coal commission’s proposal to phase out coal by 2038 does not appear to correspond well with voter preferences." A reason for this mismatch could be the strong representation of incumbent interests within the commission, the researchers wrote. It "highlights an important institutional barrier against overcoming energy path dependence."

After months of deliberation, a multi-stakeholder commission in January proposed to phase out coal in Germany by 2038 at the very latest. Greenpeace and other climate activists had said the timetable violated the Paris climate targets, but also welcomed the agreement in general. The German government has said it supports the deal, but has yet to introduce legislation with a concrete timeline for plant shutdowns.

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