What’s in the German coal commission’s final report?

epa07320735 (L-R) Chairpersons of the Coal Commission Stanislaw Tillich, Barbara Prätorius and Ronald Pofalla present the final report of the Coal Commission 'Growth, structural change and employment' during a press conference in Berlin, Germany, 26 January 2019. [Hayoung Jeon/ epa]

With negotiations having lasted eight months and the outcome already postponed once, the German Commission on Growth, Structural Change and Employment (the so-called “coal commission”), has presented its final report. What’s in it? EURACTIV Germany reports.

As a high-tech industrial country with a long tradition of coal mining, Germany sees a particular challenge in phasing out this source of energy, the introduction to the “coal commission”’s final report makes clear.

If the processes of structural change can be connected to climate protection and job preservation, “the energy transition can […] serve as a model for other countries.” What has the 28-member body – consisting of representatives from industry, trade unions, environmental groups and academia – now agreed on?

  • Coal to be phased out by 2038 – or maybe sooner

The last coal-fired power station should be closed down by 2038 at the latest. Phasing out coal by 2035 would also be possible if security of supply and industry allow for this. The state of progress will be reviewed in 2023, 2026 and 2029 for this reason. Coal-fired power stations’ total capacity amounts to just over 45 gigawatts.

The report sets out the intermediate target of 12.5 gigawatts of power to be disconnected by 2022, equivalent to about 24 larger coal units. In 2030, only nine gigawatts of brown coal energy are allowed to still be on the network.

  • Structural change

The traditional coal-mining German states of North Rhine-Westphalia, Brandenburg, Saxony and Saxony-Anhalt are to receive extensive help in converting their industry from mining. Over a period of 20 years, €1.3 billion per year will be earmarked for this purpose. In addition, €700 million a year is supposed to be invested into spending not linked to projects.

'Merkel deceived us on climate', says Germany’s Energiewende godfather

Berlin lacks the political will to bring the energy transition forward, said Hans Josef Fell, the initiator of Germany’s world-renowned 2000 renewable energy feed-in tariff legislation, in an interview with EURACTIV.com.

Precisely how the regional economy will be funded will be stated in a key point plan scheduled for late April. It will note how investments should be made in infrastructure, authorities and research. Moreover, in order to improve transport, a “special funding programme” should contribute €1.5 billion, which have already been planned for in the German federal budget until 2021.

  • Relieving electricity price burden

The German federal government is to use a further €2 billion a year to relieve the burden of rising electricity prices on private individuals and companies from 2023. The “electricity price compensation” for energy-intensive companies should continue until 2030.

  • Employment

The “coal commission” estimates that 60,000 jobs are directly and indirectly dependent on brown coal. For all employees aged 58, there is to be an adjustment fund and compensation for pension deficits. This is expected to cost the German federal government and companies up to €5 billion. For younger workers, there is to be suitable education and training provided.

The report by the “coal commission” only acts as a suggestion for the German federal government to pass corresponding laws for phasing out coal. However, they are not binding. This year, the German government is therefore planning to put in place a “climate protection law,” which, for the first time, should set CO2 emission objectives for individual economic sectors (similar laws already exist in a handful of other EU countries).

Germany, which will not achieve the climate goals it set itself for 2020, now has to take action if, as planned, the country wants to bring about the energy transition in the coming years. Accordingly, the last nuclear power station in Germany is supposed to be shut down in 2022. In 2050, total carbon dioxide emissions should be between 80% and 95% below 1990 levels.

[Edited by Zoran Radosavljevic]

German coal phase-out criticised but welcomed on whole

Green activists have criticised the German coal commission’s goal of phasing out coal by 2038, saying it is too late. But environmentalists and industry representatives at least agree it could lead the way for other countries. EURACTIV Germany reports.

Niklas Heiland, Oxfam Germany: “If the German government implements the commission’s proposal in this way, it is unlikely that the climate goals for 2030 will be achieved. This means that Germany would also miss its contribution to the Paris Agreement in 2030. The objective of limiting global warming to 1.5°C is therefore getting increasingly remote.”

Eric Schweitzer, President of the Association of German Chambers of Commerce and Industry (DIHK): “I think that the final report meets the commission’s mission: climate protection has to be accompanied by ensuring security of supply, our economy’s competitiveness and prospects for the affected regions. It was not easy to balance all this. From the perspective of German businesses, the particularly important thing about the outcome is that fixed dates have been agreed for re-examining existing assumptions. Only then can further steps be taken.”

Dr Simone Peter, president of the federal association for renewable energy (BEE): “The recommendations by the commission for reducing coal-fired power generation in the 2020s are likely to contribute to achieving the national climate protection target for 2030. But this does not mean that the objectives of the Paris Agreement will be achieved. In the framework of the structural commission, this would only be possible if the coal-fired power stations were operating minimally. (…) The German government should now swiftly put in place the ‘climate protection law’ which ensures that the 65% target for renewable energies by 2030, which is supported by the commission, is implemented with the corresponding time and quantity structure.”

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