January 24, 2019 Read More →

Key details of German coal phase-out plan still to be finalized as deadline looms

Clean Energy Wire:

Germany’s detailed coal exit path and the end-date to coal-fired power generation remain unknown only days before a highly anticipated phase-out proposal is due to be published. A leaked draft of the final report of the country’s coal commission seen by the Clean Energy Wire suggests agreements on compensation for coal plant operators, support for affected mining regions, and measures to shield consumers from rising power prices. The draft also refers to Germany’s 2030 emission reduction targets for the energy sector as a guideline for the exit in accordance with its mandate. But the most pressing details from a climate perspective still need to be thrashed out during a marathon session scheduled for Friday 25 January: How many coal-fired power plants will go offline in the near future, and when will the last one be switched off?

The draft document runs to 133 pages, and contains only five pages where details still need to be settled – but these concern a plan for coal power plant closures. Passages detailing the exit path are still littered with empty brackets “[XX]” that need to be filled with dates and coal power plant capacities following the final round of negotiations. The draft also doesn’t specify whether the embattled Hambach Forest, which has become a symbol for anti-coal activism in Germany and beyond, will be preserved.

Germany’s coal exit commission was set up to find economic prospects for coal workers and regions before spelling out measures to reduce carbon emissions in line with Germany’s climate targets, and naming an end date for coal-fired power production, the most prominent blemish on the former climate action pioneer’s emissions record. This order is reflected in its official title: “Commission on Growth, Structural Change and Employment.”

Officially, the commission’s last meeting will take place on 1 February. But the task force hopes to wrap up negotiations on Friday 25 January, so a safety buffer remains in case a compromise can’t be reached by that date, sources close to the commission told the Clean Energy Wire.

The coal commission’s proposal is not legally binding, but since the task force is backed by a large majority in parliament, the government is widely expected to follow its recommendations.

From a climate policy perspective, the key issue is how many power stations Germany will switch off in the short term, because this will have the largest impact on the country’s total emissions over time compared to other measures. Seven of Europe’s ten most CO2-intensive power plants are located in Germany. Shutting these down early would save a lot of cumulated emissions over the years.

More: German coal exit timetable to be settled in last minute talks

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