How to exit coal / Energy policy "reminiscent of GDR"
“How the exit from coal power generation by 2040 can be managed”
Germany can exit coal by 2040 without significant effects on power prices or supply security, and the government should start to organise the phase-out immediately, modelled on the country’s experience with forming a broad consensus on exiting nuclear, argues energy think tank Agora Energiewende*. “Utilities have a right to planning security and reliability. If politics continues to bury its head in the sand on the subject of the decarbonisation of the power sector, it creates maximum insecurity,” says Agora director Patrick Graichen in a press release.
The think tank sketches a concrete path for the coal exit, aiming to minimise costs. The government should convene a discussion as soon as possible. Stakeholders should aim for a fair agreement in 2016, followed by a law about a coal exit supported by a broad majority of parliament. According to the proposals, old generating capacity of 3 GW - equivalent to three to four large plants - should be decommissioned per year initially, starting in 2018. No more open-cast lignite mines should be opened and federal funds need to support the transition in mining areas. “The decarbonisation of the power sector can only succeed in a fair and balanced social consensus,” according to Graichen.
Find the press release and study in German here.
The timing of Agora’s proposals for a coal exit is no coincidence, writes Michael Bauchmüller in Süddeutsche Zeitung. “The Paris climate summit has increased the pressure on coal domestically, and environment minister Barbara Hendricks wants to publish a long-term plan to protect the climate by the summer,” according to Bauchmüller. He says energy minister Sigmar Gabriel said a year ago that he wanted a consensus about coal, but has become much quieter on the issue. “He is still rattled by the trouble caused by his proposal for a climate levy for old lignite plants.”
Find the article in German here.
Read a CLEW article about the climate levy debate here.
“Decision time in Lusatia”
Swedish utility Vattenfall will open its books to potential buyers of its lignite operations in eastern Germany in January, Alexander Fröhlich reports for the Tagesspiegel. The sale shall be officially completed by the middle of 2016. Three Czech energy companies are among the interested parties, Fröhlich writes. It is unclear among Vattenfall insiders if the company will be able to sell for the estimated value of its lignite operations of 2-4 billion euros , the author says. Producers of lignite power are under pressure in Germany, even more so after the Paris climate agreement. Environment Minister Barbara Hendricks wants to accelerate a coal phase-out in Germany and even the Social Democrats in Brandenburg, traditionally a stronghold for coal workers, have this week tentatively agreed to such a policy, Fröhlich writes.
“This energy policy reminds me of the GDR”
Germany’s government should make sure that its future energy policy does not harm the country’s energy-intensive industries, Michael Vassiliadis, head of trade union IG BCE told Der Tagesspiegel in an interview. The Paris climate summit had not changed anything about the German climate targets for 2050, nonetheless “some climate fundamentalists are now […] proclaiming the immediate end of coal”, Vassiliadis said. A coal-exit debate, including definite dates with some charitable ideas for the affected regions and workers, would not make sense, he said. The large utilities were suffering badly from the government’s politically motivated interferences into the market. “This almost reminds me of GDR-planned economy,” Vassiliadis said.
taz – die Tageszeitung
“We need renewables faster”
The Paris Agreement means that German climate targets have to be taken seriously and that the country must tackle the coal exit, state secretary Jochen Flasbarth, from the Ministry of Environment, told the taz in an interview. Renewable development had to be accelerated, he added.
Talking about a phase-out of coal power as suggested by the environment minister, Flasbarth said he thought it was wrong of opponents to “always evoke economic doom”. But, equally, it was wrong to ignore the worries of the people and workers affected.
“Germany saves more greenhouse gas emissions”
Germany’s CO2 emissions have dropped by 4.6 percent between 2013 and 2014, Nick Reimer reports on klimaretter.info. The Federal Environment Agency (UBA) had previously estimated the drop to be 4.3 percent but more detailed calculations found the difference to be larger. Emissions in 2014 were 27.9 percent lower than in 1990, amounting to 901.9 million tonnes CO2 equivalents.
Read the article in German here.
“Power on demand”
About 25,000 German households have installed large batteries to store renewable energy - and market researchers expect that number to rise to 170,000 by 2020, writes Ralph Diermann in Süddeutsche Zeitung. The batteries could become an important buffer for the power grid, which is currently insufficient to absorb peak wind power production. The idea is being tested in various pilot projects in Germany, where IT platforms combine many batteries to form virtual large-scale storage systems.
Read the article in German here.
“Grid operators are fighting over projects”
The government’s ambitious plans to extend the power grid have led to arguments amongst the operators about who is in charge of the investments worth billions of euros, writes Klaus Stratmann in business daily Handelsblatt. The Federal Grid Agency has already intervened and told the operators to find a compromise, Stratmann learned. According to sector specialists, the issue has revealed holes in the corresponding laws, and increasing the number of projects under management increases the clout of operators.
“German renewable energy bill faces new EU court challenge”
German energy companies RWE, Vattenfall and Mibrag have taken action against the European Commission’s approval of the reformed Renewable Energy Act (EEG) in 2014, MLex reports. “Mibrag’s lawsuit targets the commission’s classification of national provisions for auto-generators [of power] as state aid,” the article by Karoline Soldon and Lewis Crofts says.
Read the article here (behind paywall).
*Like the Clean Energy Wire, Agora Energiewende is a project funded by Stiftung Mercator and the European Climate Foundation.