Proposal for coal phase-out in Germany

Time for change! Photo: Markus Reinhardt/ CC BY

BUND, a German environmental organisation, suggests a legally binding law to close all coal power stations by 2030.

The Federation for Environment and Nature Conservation Germany (BUND/FOE Germany), one of the largest and most powerful NGOs in the country, has now proposed a phase-out plan for coal similar to the nuclear phase-out in Germany. BUND is suggesting a binding law to close coal power stations and believes that this phase-out could be achieved by 2030.

The phase-out plan and bill are explained in a report from the end of August 2014 and were submitted to the Federal Minister for the Environment, Barbara Hendricks, and the Minister for Economic Affairs, Sigmar Gabriel.

As a first step BUND is demanding that the German government limits the lifetime of older brown coal (lignite) power stations by law. BUND President Hubert Weiger explained at a press conference: “At 25 per cent, the current share of lignite in the German electricity mix is far too high. The only way to get away from the high CO2 emissions from coal-fired power plants is a speedy exit from lignite electrification”. Weiger said that initially it would be necessary to adopt a law that limits the life of the 24 oldest and most inefficient lignite power stations to 35 years. “So by 2020, all those lignite power stations must be switched off that went into operation before 1985.” 

“BUND expects the immediate examination of the proposal by the German government. A successful climate and energy policy cannot be delayed,” said the president of BUND.

One of the criticisms levelled by BUND was that the increase in electricity production from lignite in recent years and the resulting high CO2 emissions had cancelled out the climate policy successes already achieved through the development of renewable energies in Germany. Old lignite power stations, which currently emit more than one kilogram of CO2 per kilowatt hour, run at full speed. “If electricity production from coal in old and inefficient lignite power plants is maintained at the same level as it is today, the federal government can write off its climate goals,” the president of BUND said to the press in Berlin.

About half of today’s lignite capacity, about 10 gigawatts, would be shut down by 2020 as a result of the bill proposed by BUND. This would affect the 24 oldest power plant units in Germany, most of them in North Rhine-Westphalia (Niederaußem, Neurath, Frimmersdorf, Weisweiler) and Brandenburg/Saxony (Jänschwalde, Boxberg, Buschhaus). 

This would immediately reduce CO2 emissions from lignite by around 90 million tonnes per year, explains BUND. 

After 2020, lignite power stations would be closed down step by step, earlier than the 35-year lifetime of individual power stations, if climate policy targets are to be met. With political support it should be possible to put an end to climate-damaging electricity production from coal by 2030, concludes BUND. 

BUND is also proposing to establish a commission similar to the “Ethical Commission for Safe Energy Production”, which was formed in Germany in 2011 to prepare for the nuclear phase-out. This commission would prepare the societal consensus for the coal phase-out and the technical, ethical, economic and socio-political aspects of closing down lignite and hard coal electricity production in Germany.

Reinhold Pape

Source: Der BUND-Abscahltplan: Laufzeitbergenzung für die ältesten Braunkohleblöcke bis 2020 (29 August 2014). 

Table:Coal power plants proposed to be phased-out before 2020.

Name of plant  Net output in MW CO2 annual load in Mt Year commissioned Proposed year of closure
Weisweiler E (RWE) 312 2.98 1965 2016
Niederaußem C (RWE) 294 2.78 1965 2016
Frimmersdorf P (RWE) 284 2.71 1966 2016
Weisweiler F (RWE) 304 2.82 1967 2016
Niederaußem D (RWE) 297 2.65 1968 2016
Fimmersdorf Q (RWE) 278 2.58 1970 2016
Niederaußem E (RWE) 295 2.64 1970 2016
Niederaußem F (RWE) 299 2.67 1971 2016
Neurath A (RWE) 277 2.57 1972 2016
Neurath B (RWE) 288 2.56 1972 2016
Neurath C (RWE) 292 2.59 1973 2016
Weisweiler G (RWE) 590 5.26 1974 2016
Niederaußem H (RWE) 648 5.75 1974 2016
Niederaußem G (RWE) 653 5.82 1974 2016
Weisweiler H (RWE) 592 4.85 1975 2016
Neurath D (RWE) 607 4.94 1975 2016
Neurath E (RWE) 604 4.94 1976 2016
Boxberg N (Vattenfall) 465 3.83 1979 2016
Boxberg P (Vattenfall) 465 3.83 1980 2016
Jänschwalde A (Vattenfall) 498 4.10 1981 2016
Jänschwalde B (Vattenfall) 498 4.10 1982 2016
Jänschwalde C (Vattenfall) 498 4.10 1984 2018
Jänschwalde D (Vattenfall) 498 4.10 1985 2019
Buschhaus D (Mirbag) 352 2.99 1985 2019


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