Coal Regions Fear Shift to Renewables

Just a little CO2. Source: DPA
Picture Source: DPA
  • Why it matters

    Why it matters

    Burning coal to produce electricity is a major source of CO2 emissions, but Germany has already decided to phase-out nuclear power as part of its energy transition.

  • Facts


    • German want to cut its CO2 emissions, but coal regions fear the economic impact.
    • The German economy ministry calculates the operator of the Jänschwalde brown coal power plant would have to pay up to €160 million in added costs for CO2 certificates annually, starting in 2017.
    • Swedish energy firm Vattenfall wants to sell its German brown coal operations.
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From the coalfields and the capital, opposition to the German government’s shift to renewable energy is growing.

The Ver.di trade union rallied thousands of workers for a three-hour demonstration this week at four power plants run by RWE, Germany’s second largest utility, in North Rhine-Westphalia.

The IG BCE unions and general works council of power company Vattenfall plan similar protests in Lusatia, a mining region in eastern Germany. The action is planned in the town of Jänschwalde in southern Brandenburg, where the Swedish company produces and burns brown coal for electricity.

The impetus for the action is a benchmark paper by the German economics ministry on reorganizing the electricity market.

The 47-page paper, which became public last week, lays out a foundation for planned talks on the Germany’s transition to renewable energy between Chancellor Angela Merkel’s conservative Christian Democrats and their coalition partners the center-left Social Democrats.

But the talks were quickly called off after many politicians in the right-left coalition said they did not accept the paper’s benchmarks.

“There is something that no one wants – that whole regions and industries will become energy transition losers,” said Michael Fuchs, deputy leader of the CDU parliamentary group.

The lawmakers are starting a fight with the government, because the paper used central points already made by coalition leaders. Chancellor Merkel and Sigmar Gabriel, economy minister and head of the SPD, had agreed to begin work on climate protection measures by the end of 2014.

Video: Rainer Baake, Director of Berlin-based think tank Agora Energiewende explains what challenges Germany
is facing to transform its energy system to renwables.

Burning coal is especially damaging to the climate, and must be part of the energy transition equation. Now there are concrete suggestions on the table: Coal-fired power plants that have been running more than 20 years would have to purchase additional CO2-emission certificates beginning in 2017.

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