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10 May 2022, 13:06
Benjamin Wehrmann

Politicians from major German coal state say 2030 phase-out possible despite Russia’s war

Rheinische Post

Local politicians in the western German state of North Rhine-Westphalia (NRW) say the region that heavily relies on coal power and mining can achieve its goal to end the fossil fuel’s use by about 2030 despite the energy supply crisis exacerbated by Russia’s war in Ukraine. Ahead of the 15 May elections in NRW, Germany’s most populous state, the Rheinische Post interviewed representatives of the major parties in the Erkelenz coal mining region. Thomas Schnelle of the governing conservative Christian Democrats (CDU) said the 2030 exit would remain a “realistic goal” but warned against fixating on a date. “There’s a certain confusion regarding the 2030 exit now that we face the risk of having to do without Russian gas,” as gas was planned to be a bridging technology in the state, he said. A decision should be made no later than 2026 and the current urgency could help to speed things up, Schnelle argued. An end to coal by 2032 would still be acceptable, he said. Heike Simons of the Social Democrats (SPD) said her party would adhere to the 2030 exit date, adding that villages in the region currently threatened by further mine expansions should be saved. “We have other options for generating energy,“ Simons said, stressing that “bureaucratic hurdles” for renewable power have to be removed to ensure national stability. Green Party candidate Paul Mank said the phase-out in NRW should be achieved “significantly earlier” than 2030 to save villages and speed up the roll-out of renewables. Tino Pakusa of the Free Democrats (FDP), junior partners in the government coalition, said a 2030 exit would remain “desirable” but warned that supply security could not be put in jeopardy for it. “We need to provide the legal requirements for a coal phase-out” that ensure supply is kept stable and alternative sources are identified quickly. “Once this plan is agreed, we can really say until when the phase-out can be completed.”

The effects of the war in Ukraine will have a major impact on Germany’s most important state election this year, making Sunday's vote in heavy industry heartland NRW another gauge of the public’s view of the federal government’s handling of the crisis. Voters in the federal state, whose population of 18 million is on a par with the Netherlands or Romania, regard energy security and affordability as a top concern.

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