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20 Jan 2020, 13:23
Freja Eriksen

Germany's gradual coal phase-out path causes avoidable emissions - critics

Tagesspiegel Background

Critics of Germany's roadmap for phasing out lignite-fired power plants have detailed where they see deficiencies in the agreement reached last week by the government, federal states and plant operators, arguing a gradual phase-out rather than continuous reduction will lead to higher emissions, writes Nora Zaremba in energy policy newsletter Tagesspiegel Background. According to the timetable for the shutdowns, the total amount of lignite capacity will be taken offline as recommended by the coal exit commission, though only right before the dates at which Germany's power sector emissions reduction targets become binding, meaning in 2020 (280 million tonnes of CO2), 2022 (257 million tonnes of CO2) and 2030 (175 million tonnes of CO2). The critics warn that this could lead to higher emissions compared to a more linear phase-out, which had been recommended by the coal exit commission. Felix Matthes, energy expert at the German Institute for Applied Ecology (Öko-Institut), says the path now determined will lead to additional emissions of about 40 million tonnes of CO2 in the power sector by 2030 compared to a continuous shutdown. Paul Lehmann, energy economist at the Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research, estimates that 20 percent of additional lignite capacity will be connected to the grid over the entire period, compared to a linear reduction path.

The phase-out plan also spells out compensation payments for power plant operators. Many analysts and environmental activists immediately dismissed the schedule agreed on almost one year after the country's landmark decision to end coal made in early 2019, arguing that the pace was too slow to comply with Germany's emissions reduction obligations. The decision makes Germany the first country in the world with a plan to end both nuclear and coal-fired power production.

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