NGOs, RWE and regions argue over which coal plants to shut down first
Several weeks after Germany’s coal exit commission published its phase out plan, environmental NGOs, the energy company RWE and coal region governments now argue about which coal plants to shut down first and how fast, report Susanne Ehlerding and Jakob Schlandt in Der Tagesspiegel. Environmental organisations DNR, Greenpeace Germany and Friends of the Earth Germany (BUND) – which were all members of the coal commission – have called for quick shutdowns in the western German Rhenish lignite mining region in North Rhine-Westphalia, operated by RWE. The NGOs say there was a verbal agreement in the negotiations to take 3 gigawatts (GW) off the grid, reports Tagesspiegel. This could help save the embattled Hambach Forest, which RWE wants to raze to expand a lignite mine – and which was the reason for the NGOs to accept 2038 as Germany’s coal exit date. Originally, they had called for a coal exit by 2030.
However, the final commission proposal does not prescribe a detailed timetable for taking coal plants off the grid. An RWE spokesperson said the lignite capacity reductions at issue “cannot solely be done in the Rhenish regions” and this was not part of the coal commission proposal. The dispute takes place against the backdrop of financial demands by the energy company, writes Tagesspiegel. RWE will enter into negotiations over compensation payments for plant shutdowns with the federal government should the grand coalition decide to follow the commission’s recommendations. RWE estimates costs of 1.2 billion euros for each GW of power plant capacity switched off early to meet the country’s emissions goals.
North Rhine-Westphalia’s economy minister Andreas Pinkwart has also said his state could not shoulder all the burden of first plant shutdowns, writes Tagesspiegel. This would mean that the eastern German lignite regions have to do their part. According to media reports, however, the coal exit is to initially focus on western Germany, while older and more carbon-intensive plants in eastern Germany could be left running much longer to avoid severe disruption in the economically weaker regions.