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A court in Germany has ruled the planning permission for the country’s newest coal plant void, placing the 15-month-old station’s future in jeopardy just as Germany is mulling a faster coal exit.

North Rhine-Westphalia’s Higher Administrative Court said in an Aug. 26 ruling that local officials responsible for siting the 1.1-GW, hard coal-fired Datteln Power Plant, built and operated by Uniper SE, failed to consider alternative locations for the plant as required under environmental regulations.

“The ruling removes one of two legal grounds the hard coal plant needs in order to keep running,” environmental law charity ClientEarth, which supported the case against the plant, said in a statement. The case had been filed by the city of Waltrop, the local chapter of environmental group BUND and four citizens.

Local residents have also filed a second case against the plant, based on its environmental impact permit. “If Datteln loses both legal bases to operate, its activities must cease,” ClientEarth said.

The plant began operations in May 2020, boosting Uniper’s coal-fired output to 8.6 TWh in the first half of 2021 and increasing its carbon intensity by 19% to 442 grams of CO2 per kWh.

It is one of the last coal plants scheduled to close under Germany’s phaseout of the fuel by 2038. Uniper CEO Klaus-Dieter Maubach recently suggested that the company would consider shutting down its German coal plants early if a potential new government decides to speed up the country’s coal exit timetable to meet strengthened emissions cuts for 2030.

[Yannic Rack and Henry Edwardes-Evans]

More: Court ruling puts future of Germany’s newest coal plant in jeopardy

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