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Germany agrees to phase out coal plants by 2038

Updated: Jan 26, 2020

By Aaron Werner

A German government-appointed commission has announced that all of Germany’s coal plants are to be phased out by 2038.

After a series of talks, the federal government and state representatives drafted an agreement which included making €40 billion available as compensation to the affected regions of this phase-out.

Europe and scientists agree that drastic action must be taken to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

The plans for a coal phase-out were brought to the table by Angela Merkel in early 2019 as part of an initiative to drastically reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 2050, also known as the German Climate Action Plan 2050.

Germany is also currently in the process of shutting down all of its nuclear plants, with the last running plant to be shut down by the end of 2022. If the plans succeed, it would make Germany the first country to end both nuclear and coal-fired power production.

Germany aims to generate at least 65% of its electricity from renewables by 2030. It is expected that compensation funds will go into new infrastructure projects for coal-dependent areas and in retraining workers.

Coal is currently one of Germany’s main power sources, generating around 40% of the electricity in the country, and more than half of that relies on burning lignite - the dirtiest type of coal. In 2017 consumption of lignite in Germany was 44% of the total in the EU. Nuclear accounts for around 12% of electricity production, with the rest being provided by natural gas and a variety of renewable energies.

The country has implemented renewable energy so successfully that during one week, renewable energy accounted for 65% of electricity production with most of it generated by wind power. At times, renewables have generated a surplus of energy that is then sold to other countries.

The new agreement has not come without criticism, however, with the coal commission announcing that this timeframe differed from what they had proposed earlier. Meanwhile, climate activists have vowed to pressure the government into bringing the proposed deadline forward, to 2030, after stating that the proposed 2035-2038 date is “unacceptable”.

Some critics fear that with the phase out of both coal and nuclear energy in such a short timeframe, renewable energy sources will not be bear the burden of powering a nation; that Germany will be left having to import energy from countries that still rely on both coal and nuclear power, in effect funding emissions further afield.

Yet despite the many hurdles still to overcome, Germany looks to be serious in its move towards to cleaner energy.


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