22 May 2020, 14:07
Benjamin Wehrmann

Soaring renewables output could save villages threatened by German coal mine expansion

Clean Energy Wire

There is no need to further expand the opencast coal mine Garzweiler II in western Germany to guarantee a smooth functioning of the country's energy system, the German Institute for Economic Research (DIW) has found in an expert assessment commissioned by Greenpeace. The NGO called on Armin Laschet, state premier in the mine's home region of North Rhine-Wespthalia, to review plans by mine operator RWE and intervene to prevent the "pointless destruction" of nearby villages to make room for the mine. Lower gas prices and the high output of renewables have already reduced the use of lignite substantially, with the technology's share in the power mix falling by more than 37 percent in the first four months of 2020, the DIW said. Greenpeace's Karsten Smid said RWE's expansion plans are "exorbitantly exaggerated" and ignore the country's climate targets. According to the DIW assessment, only about 280 million tonnes of coal could be collected at the Garzweiler II and Hambach mines to stay within the boundaries of Germany's CO2 emissions budget under the Paris Climate Agreement, but current expansion scenarios exceed this figure by up to three times.

Meanwhile, the German government confirmed its intention to preserve the Hambach Forest, a symbolic climate policy battleground located next to the Hambach mine. In an answer to a parliamentary inquiry by the Green Party, the government said it would honour the agreement made in Germany's coal exit plan in January, arguing that the coal exit commission's assessment that the forest should not be cut down to expand the Hambach mine regardless of the license already obtained by RWE is "factually adequate."

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