19 Oct 2021, 13:49
Benjamin Wehrmann

Plans for earlier German coal phase-out fuel concerns in coal region

Focus Online / Börsen-Zeitung

Plans by Germany’s future government coalition to bring forward the coal exit to 2030 have elicited criticism from state politicians in the country’s coal mining regions, Focus Online reports. Marko Schiemann, state MP in eastern state Saxony for the conservative CDU, said an earlier phase-out would send the “wrong signal” to coal mining region Lusatia. Infrastructure projects, such as a new motorway and train connection, as well as other investments aimed at strengthening the otherwise economically weak region ahead of the coal exit would not be completed early enough to ensure that a faster coal exit can work without causing economic disruptions in Lusatia, Schiemann argued. “This would further isolate Lusatia,” he said. He criticised the Social Democrats’ (SPD) chancellor candidate Olaf Scholz, who had visited the region during the election campaign and had promised coal workers that the exit would be carried out as planned, with 2038 being the very last year for shutting down the last coal plant. Scholz would likely become chancellor in a coalition with the Green Party and the Free Democrats (FDP). Plans by the three parties to “ideally” bring forward the coal exit by eight years have not been rejected forthright by RWE, the energy company that operates coal mines and plants in the western state of North Rhine-Westphalia. CFO Michael Müller told the Börsen-Zeitung in an interview that an earlier exit “would fit into our strategy” as it is likely to result in a faster growth of renewable power capacity. However, he cautioned that an earlier phase-out could only happen if the interests of all stakeholders are respected. Ultimately, “the use of coal plants depends on whether renewables and gas plants produce enough electricity,” Müller said.

Germany agreed on a phase-out schedule for coal and support payments for affected regions in 2020, but the agreement had been criticised ever since for falling short of delivering the emissions reduction  required for meeting international climate targets in time. Almost all parties, including the CDU, have said a much earlier end to coal than 2038 would very well be possible due to market forces alone, as increasingly expensive greenhouse gas emissions allowances in the EU trading system ETS make a profitable operation of the plants unviable.

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