22 May 2020, 14:04
Benjamin Wehrmann

Hard coal alliance proposes runtime extension for 'reserve' under Germany's phase-out - report

Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung / Redaktionsnetzwerk Deutschland

An alliance of hard coal plant operators plans to achieve an expansion of the runtime of Germany's seven most modern hard coal plants by proposing to shift them into an "energy transition reserve" to back up intermittent renewable power production, Christian Geinitz reports for the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung. The alliance has said that the plants should be kept in stand-by mode from 2030 to 2038 – the definitive end year of coal-fired power production in the country – and financed through a surcharge on grid fees, according to the article. The government plans to supplement renewable power production with newly constructed natural gas plants with a capacity of about 17 gigawatts (GW), which emit much less than coal plants. The hard coal plant operators argue that construction of new gas plants could be partly avoided if their plants are allowed to stay operational for longer, and that their expected "few hundred hours" of annual runtime would add the "manageable" amount of an additional maximum of one million tonnes of CO2 emissions per year, compared to gas plants. The proposal could also help solve a dispute over compensation of operators of plants constructed after 2008 which, according to the alliance, would not be able to amortise if they are taken off the grid before 2030.

The Association of Local Utilities (VKU) and labour union Verdi also criticised the government's handling of hard coal plants in the context of its coal exit policies, saying there was "considerable room for improvement" in the law that will be debated in parliament next week. "We need adequate compensation payments for plant closures to organise a socially acceptable coal exit," Verdi head Frank Werneke told the Redaktionsnetzwerk Deutschland (RND). According to the government's phase-out roadmap, the last hard coal plant is slated for decommissioning by 2033, whereas lignite plants might continue to operate up to five years longer. Verdi and the VKU say about 11,000 jobs are connected to Germany's hard coal plants.

The coal exit law detailing plant shutdowns and compensation payments for coal companies was adopted in January. Hard coal plant operators have criticised the plans, as the relatively late shutdown dates for lignite facilities likely mean earlier closures for hard coal. In February, hard coal plant operators and the economy ministry failed to reach an agreement on the matter. Experts will weigh in on the law in a public hearing in parliament on 25 May.

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