Alternative Expense

Report: Coal Phaseout to Cost €72 Billion

coal power plant neurath in grevenbroich source dpa
The Neurath coal-fired powerplant in Grevenbroich in northwest Germany. An exit from coal power, which generates 40 percent of the country's electricity, would cost taxpayers €72 billion, according to a new study.
  • Why it matters

    Why it matters

    Environmentalists want to shut down Germany’s coal-fired power plants, which supply 40 percent of electricity. But the price tag — estimated by one group to be €72 billion — raises new questions about whether overburdened German utility customers can afford to foot the bill.

  • Facts


    • An energy institute in Cologne estimates it would cost German taxpayers €71.6 billion ($81.7 billion) if the country phases out its coal-fired power plants in favor of alternative energy sources.
    • Germany is already on track to shut down its nuclear power plants by 2022.
    • Phasing out coal would reduce German CO2 emissions by 859 million tons by 2045, which would not be enough to help the country meet its own reduction goals.
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Germany may have one of the world’s most ambitious plans to convert to renewable energy, but it is also a country that still relies heavily on coal, much to the dismay of environmental groups.

The Germany branch of Friends of the Earth Germany, BUND for short in German, called coal-fired power plants “the focal point of environmental destruction” and said it would organise an anti-coal demonstration this coming weekend in the coal regions east of Berlin.

BUND, which has 500,000 members, is the largest environmental group in Germany, and by no means alone in its criticism of coal. The anti-coal legions have support across the political spectrum.

Phasing out coat quickly will not be easy. A new study by the Institute of Energy Economics at the University of Cologne estimates that eliminating the use of coal-fired plants between 2020 and 2045 will cost the country some €71.6 billion ($81.7 billion).

Most of these costs will come from switching from cheap coal to the more expensive natural gas. Most of the extra expense would be passed on to German consumers, who already pay some of Europe’s highest utility bills.

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