16 Aug 2021, 13:51
Benjamin Wehrmann

Tighter climate targets spell end of German coal by 2030, government figures suggest


Germany’s revised climate targets mean the country's coal power phase-out will need to be completed by 2030, eight years earlier than currently planned, newspaper Handelsblatt reports based on an answer by the government on a parliamentary inquiry by the pro-business party FDP. Germany's new climate targets reduce the remaining emissions budget for the energy sector from 175 to 108 million tonnes per year in 2030, down from currently about 280 million tonnes. The government said it assumes that around 25 million tonnes will be emitted by heating plants, refineries and pipeline technology alone, leaving little room for emissions from coal-fired power plants. Germany introduced tighter climate goals in the wake of a landmark constitutional court ruling that said previous policies were insufficient.

Assuming Germany reaches its target of a 65 percent renewables share in 2030 and has a total power consumption of 655 terawatt hours (TWh), 229 TWh will need to be provided by fossil power plants, notwithstanding possible imports, according to the article. Even if the remaining 35 percent in the power mix were provided by gas plants, the budget would already be exceeded slightly, meaning coal power plants, whose emissions are about twice as high as those of gas plants, don't stand a chance to contribute to the power mix while remaining within the budget. "The adjusted CO2 reduction targets in fact can only be reached with gas plants. But we've seen nobody interested in building one in the past few years," FDP Member of Parliament Sandra Weeser told Handelsblatt. 

Based on a compromise found by Germany's coal exit commission, the government agreed in early 2020 to end coal-fired power production no later than 2038 and possibly a few years earlier, depending on overall power supply security and market conditions. But industry representatives, environmental groups and government politicians doubt that coal can be used for that long due to increasingly ambitious emissions reduction targets and rapidly increasing emissions allowance prices in the European trading system ETS, which forces costly coal plants out of the market. 

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