05 Jul 2019, 14:01
Julian Wettengel

Lignite plants have become "marginalised" in Germany - media

Tagesspiegel Background / Carbon Pulse

Power production from lignite in Germany was pushed down to a long-time low in June for a variety of reasons, including strong renewables, a high CO₂ price, and cheap natural gas, reports Jakob Schlandt in Tagesspiegel Background. Lignite plants had usually supplied a steady amount of power but the output fluctuated much more in recent months. “Base load plants have turned into marginal facilities, which look for opportunities on a daily basis,” writes Schlandt. Frank Peter, from think tank Agora Energiewende*, said that lignite plants were also often taken offline for inspection in May and June.
One example of lignite power production under pressure is eastern German lignite plant Lippendorf, which experts see as a “significant milestone for the sector”, reports British Carbon Pulse in a separate article. After several months of scant operating hours, utility EnBW last week said it had opted to indefinitely mothball its half of the 1.8MW Lippendorf plant. An EnBW spokesperson told Carbon Pulse this was an economic decision, based on the wholesale power price, CO2 price, and electricity supply and demand – and it could be reversed at short notice “if parameters change”. Matteo Mazzoni, a carbon and power market analyst at ICIS, told Carbon Pulse: “Definitely this is the new reality. […] “We will see more of this, probably not this year unless it gets very hot again, but from next year and more as we approach the 2022 decommissioning dates.”

Lignite power stations produced 21 percent less in the first six months of 2019 than in the same period last year. The German coal exit commission recommended to phase out the fossil fuel by 2038 at the very latest. It also proposed to shut down several gigawatts of lignite and hard coal capacity by 2022. Chancellor Angela Merkel's government coalition has to decide how to implement the non-binding commission proposal, and draft necessary legislation. Many details have yet to be worked out and ultimately decided by parliamentarians in a process that could last well into 2020. Coal companies such as RWE are demanding compensation payments for capacity which they have to take offline before the end of the plants' lifetime.

*Like the Clean Energy Wire, Agora Energiewende is a project funded by Stiftung Mercator and the European Climate Foundation.

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