17 May 2021, 13:29
Kerstine Appunn

NGOs obtain govt calculations for coal exit compensations, say sums are too high

Clean Energy Wire / Tagesspiegel Background

NGOs have obtained the formula for calculating compensation payments to German lignite operators from the energy ministry (BMWi) and say that, instead of the planned 4.35 billion euros, mining and power companies should receive only 343 million euros for the coal phase-out. Greenpeace, which filed a freedom of information request under the Environmental Information Act to get the previously withheld formula, said that "Economics Minister [Peter] Altmaier deliberately declared the formula for calculating the compensation a classified matter.” Altmaier’s ministry told Tagesspiegel Background that the formula had not been included in the coal phase-out law and the final compensation figure was arrived at after intense negotiations. According to the ministry, these took into account the amount of earlier station closures, loss in profits, additional costs for the operators of opencast mines, the fact the operators agreed to waive future legal claims and that the compensation payment will secure recultivation of the mines. However, having used the formula obtained by Greenpeace in a new analysis, NGO Ember found that with the available variables the result matched the 4.35 billion euro granted by the government almost exactly. With adjusted variables and by reducing the compensation period from five to three years, Ember arrived at the considerably lower sum of 343 million euros.

The coal exit compensation payments have previously been a bone of contention between the government and NGOs, which claimed that the government’s assumptions about future power prices and fixed costs were unrealistic and opaque. The compensation is also under scrutiny by the European Commission, whose decision on its approval under state aid law is pending.

The German federal government and energy companies officially signed the public law agreement to end lignite-based power generation in the country by 2038 in February 2021. RWE will receive 2.6 billion euros for its lignite plants in the western Rhineland region while LEAG will receive 1.75 billion euros for power plants and opencast mines in the eastern state of Lusatia.

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