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31 Jul 2020, 12:22
Alex Dziadosz

Steag coal compensation lawsuit “legitimate” but “politically explosive” – opinions

Handelsblatt / Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung

Hard coal power station operator Steag’s petition to the German Federal Constitutional Court to improve compensation for plant shutdowns under the coal exit law are “absolutely legitimate,” Jürgen Flauger writes in an opinion in Handelsblatt. Flauger compared the move to earlier constitutional challenges to Germany’s nuclear phase-out plans. “As was the case back then, the complainant is not concerned with fundamentally revising the exit decision,” he writes. “In plain language: The question is whether the compensation is sufficient.” Flauger writes that while it was right to put climate protection at the top of the agenda, “the implementation of energy policy goals must be clean” and needs to take into account the property rights of those involved.
Writing in Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung (FAZ), Niklas Záboji also argues that Steag had a right to file the suit and that it was in everyone’s interest to “dispel legal doubts” about the admissibility of the phase-out. But "it is not just a question of legal admissibility, and that is precisely what makes the Steag lawsuit so politically explosive.” Záboji points out that under the phase-out plan, polluting lignite-fired plants will remain online when blocks of hard-coal plants are either gone or converted to gas—a move which appears politically motivated, given  the disruption of a quick lignite phase-out in otherwise economically weak mining regions. “Politically, there are always reasons to intervene in the marketplace unduly,” Záboji writes.

Steag, which sees itself as disadvantaged in terms of compensation compared to lignite coal producers, filed an emergency petition to the court this week and plans to bring a constitutional complaint. Separately, FAZ writes that other coal companies are reluctant to go to the court after the Steag suit. Uniper, for instance, has said it would shut down its coal-fired power plants over the next few years and only continue to operate the new Datteln IV power plant. “It's an issue for others, but not for us,” said Uniper CEO Andreas Schierenbeck. Aachen-based energy firm Trianel and Karlsruhe-based EnBW were also quoted as saying they had no plans to take similar legal action.

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