Austria officially closed its last coal-fired power plant on Friday (17 April), becoming the second EU country to exit coal after Belgium in 2016.
The definitive closure of Verbund’s Mellach coal-fired district heating plant was announced last year after relentless campaigning by climate activists Global 2000.
The plant stopped operating on Friday after the end of the heating season.
The closure is “a historic step”, said Leonore Gewessler, Austria’s minister for climate action, environment, energy and mobility. “By 2030, we will convert to 100% green electricity,” she added.
Austria has now become the second EU country to halt coal burning for electricity production after Belgium closed its last coal power plant in 2016.
“Austria is ending coal burning while supporting the uptake of renewable energy and the European Green New Deal,” said Kathrin Gutmann, campaign director for Europe Beyond Coal, a campaign group.
“With Austria going coal-free today, it becomes clear that the momentum to leave coal behind has not slowed, despite the significant health and economic challenges we’re facing,” Gutmann said in a statement.
However, Austria is not yet entirely coal-free yet, activists remarked. Voestalpine’s steelworks blast furnace is now the country’s number one CO2 emitter, said Dave Jones, an analyst at climate think-tank Ember.
Really good news!
But Austria is nowhere close to coal-free…@Voestalpine's Linz coal blast furnace steelworks is
Austria's #1 CO2 emitter, biggest EU steel emitter, and #12 biggest total emitter in EU.
We also need a pathway to coal-free steel… https://t.co/yOPRnLymFp
— Dave Jones (@CoalFreeDave) April 17, 2020
Seven more countries are expected to follow suit by 2025, including France (2022), Sweden (2022), Slovakia (2023), Portugal (2023), the UK (2024), Ireland (2025) and Italy (2025), according to Europe Beyond Coal.
They will be followed by Greece (2028), the Netherlands (2029), Finland (2029), Hungary (2030), and Denmark (2030).
And discussions are currently underway in the Czech Republic, Spain and North Macedonia about when to exit coal-fired electricity.
Germany has announced it will put its last coal plant offline by 2038, a commitment that still has to become official with the country’s coal exit law.
[Edited by Zoran Radosavljevic]