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Germany agrees to phase out coal-generated electricity by 2038

22 January 2019

Germany has agreed to end its reliance on polluting coal power stations by 2038, in a long-awaited decision that will have major ramifications for Europe’s attempts to meet its Paris climate change targets. The country is the last major bastion of coal-burning in north-western Europe and the dirtiest of fossil fuels still provides almost 40% of Germany’s power.

Image: Shutterstock
Image: Shutterstock

In comparison, only 5% of the UK’s power is generated from coal, and this fuel source will be phased out entirely by 2025 in that country.
The German coal exit commission has members across industry, politicians and NGOs, and has been working for nine months to decide on a final exit date. The commission agreed on a review in 2032 will decide if the deadline can be brought forward to 2035.
One of the most difficult issues has been the cost of compensating energy firms for shutting coal plants before the end of their lifetime. About €40bn will be awarded under the commission’s plans, while the industry had hoped for €60bn.
RWE, which runs many of the country’s coal plants, said the 2038 date was far too early for a complete closedown of coal-fired generation and it hoped the 2032 review would be a chance to extend the final end date. In a statement, the utility said the proposals: “would have far-reaching consequences for the German energy sector and in particular for RWE.”
Rolf Martin Schmitz, RWE’s chief executive, warned the plan would have serious consequences for the company’s lignite (brown coal) operations and unions in the energy sector have agitated against an early phase-out of coal.
The commission said that gas would become Germany’s backup power of choice, rather than coal, which would make it more similar to the UK energy system. Much of this gas will come from Russia via the controversial NordStream pipelines.

This move comes as part of German government plans to increase the share of renewables in electricity generation from 40% today to 65% in 2030.

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