Germany Sets 2019 Deadline to Plan Final Coal Phaseout
Germany is just a year away from setting a deadline to phase out its last coal-fired power generation under last week’s coalition deal between Chancellor Angela Merkel’s centre-right Christian Democratic Union and the country’s Social Democratic Party.
“We will set an end date for coal-fired power production, both for hard coal and lignite,” declared SPD energy spokesperson Bernd Westphal.
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Westphal “said a special commission consisting of representatives of the affected industries, labour unions, the federal states, local authorities, and environmental organizations would have to start its work ‘as soon as possible,’ and present its results by the end of this year,” Clean Energy Wire reports. “He said Germany will ‘absolutely’ come up with an end date for coal in early 2019.”
The deal between the two parties, the result of weeks of coalition negotiations, must still be approved by SPD members, in a vote expected to conclude early next month.
The terms for the new coalition “would allow the two political camps to renew their so-called grand coalition, which has governed Germany since 2013,” the publication notes, in a post republished by Climate Home News. “An updated draft of the treaty largely confirms the most important conclusions on energy and climate policy, which already surfaced a few days earlier.”
That draft “explicitly admits that the self-imposed 2020 target of a 40% greenhouse gas (GHG) emission reduction compared to 1990 levels is not realistic and will not be met,” The Energy Collective reported earlier last week. “However, Merkel and [SPD leader Martin] Schulz did stress their determination to stick to the 2030 goal of cutting 55% on 1990-levels. They intend to table a legislative proposal to that effect in 2019.”
The coalition partners “also want to accelerate the deployment of new renewable energy, by raising the target for the share of renewables to 65% in 2030,” wrote Thomson Reuters analyst Jon Berntsen. That shift “would mean another doubling from 2017, to 420 TWh in 2030, assuming constant electricity demand. It will require tough political decisions to enable and finance the deployment of additional renewable generation capacity, and significant upgrades of the transmission network to integrate the increased renewables capacity.”
Clean Energy Wire notes that, “while a coal exit and a further expansion of renewables were not the crunch points during the prolonged negotiations over the past days, aspects of climate and energy policy are found in almost all chapters of the coalition agreement. They are mentioned under the headings of transport, housing, development, research, and European policy.”
German climate and energy organizations criticized the decision to abandon the country’s 2020 GHG target, and to leave implementation details for the replacement plan until next year.
“Only recently, the coalition partners have conceded that the 2020 climate target will not be reached on time,” said Germanwatch Policy Director Christoph Bals. “Now they announce the next targets and willfully leave the question of whether the cheque is valid this time unanswered. That’s playing a risky game with one’s own credibility.”
“The grand coalition lacks the courage and vision to resolutely protect the climate and the environment,” said Greenpeace Germany Managing Director Sweelin Heuss. “By giving up on the 2020 climate target, the future government disgraces itself internationally. Because Germany, under Merkel, has not made headway in climate protection for years. Even the 2030 target can only be reached if the dirtiest coal-fired power plants are switched off immediately.”
Stefan Kapferer, chair of the country’s utilities association, stated that “a holistic approach to energy policy is by and large absent in the agreed coalition treaty. The agreement on energy policy is not a great success, it is more like micromanagement without courage.”
He added that the deal “remains completely open on how investment in the urgently-needed secured capacity could or should be made profitable in the future,” and “steers clear of the topic of CO2 pricing in the transport, agriculture, and heating sectors. We must make greenhouse gas emissions in these areas more expensive. Otherwise, especially the transport sector will not be able to reduce emissions at a considerable rate.”