Germany is considering phasing out lignite-based power from its energy mix within the next 20-to-25 years, German media reported this week.
News outlet Frankfurter Rundschau said the pledge could be announced in the current legislative session, citing German Environment Minister Barbara Hendricks as saying discussions should start immediately after next month’s UN climate summit in Paris and be finalised ahead of the country’s 2017 federal election.
Frankfurter Rundschau reported that Hendricks has also called for utilities and employees from the lignite industry to be involved in the process in order to build consensus, with the paper adding that German Economy and Energy Minister Sigmar Gabriel “seems to be open to the idea”.
Frankfurter Rundschau said RWE, Germany’s largest emitter, is also understood to be in favour of the government enshrining into law a long-term phase-out of coal power as it would give the company regulatory certainty well into the future.
Lignite, the most CO2-intensive conventional fossil fuel, currently accounts for around a quarter of Germany’s power mix, but its share has dropped over the past few years as more renewable energy sources have come online.
The strategy would do little to help Germany reach its goal to cut GHG emissions by 40% below 1990 levels by 2020, but would help the country achieve its longer term target of a 95% reduction by 2050.
It could be carried out similar to Germany’s nuclear power phase-out following the 2011 Fukushima disaster, in that fixed generation quotas could be agreed with utilities, said German energy and environmental economist Claudia Kemfert, head of the Energy, Transportation, and Environment department at the German Institute for Economic Research (DIW Berlin), in a separate interview with Frankfurter Rundschau.
Or, she added, the government could artificially raise CO2 prices, as does the UK government currently through its carbon floor price, which adds a premium to EUA prices.
“One of our studies shows that you can phase out of coal, [so] it is now for the federal government to choose a path,” Kemfert said.
Announcement of such a move would follow other countries and sub-national governments including the UK and the Canadian province of Alberta, which have this month pledged to completely do away with CO2-emitting coal power in the next 10-15 years.
While the German strategy remains in conceptual form, the country is pushing ahead with a separate plan to mothball eight of its aging lignite power plants to help meet its 2020 emissions target.
The government will pay the plants’ owners to put the installations in a capacity reserve that will support baseload power generation during outages at other stations or in times of excessive demand.
By Mike Szabo – firstname.lastname@example.org