German energy minister calls for more efforts to fix EU ETS, national talks on coal’s future

Published 21:32 on January 19, 2016  /  Last updated at 21:33 on January 19, 2016  /  EMEA, EU ETS  /  No Comments

German energy minister Sigmar Gabriel on Tuesday urged for more efforts by European nations to fix the EU ETS, while also calling for a national roundtable discussion on the future of coal in the country.

German energy minister Sigmar Gabriel on Tuesday urged for more efforts by European nations to fix the EU ETS, while also calling for a national roundtable discussion on the future of coal in the country.

Speaking at business newspaper Handelsblatt’s annual energy conference, Gabriel said it was difficult to understand why Europe needs national plans to reduce GHG emissions when countries more-or-less agree that the ETS is a superior tool in fighting climate change, Clean Energy Wire reported.

According to the media outlet, Gabriel said that for Germany fixing the ETS, which has for years been plagued by low prices and a massive supply glut, should be the main priority, followed by a national conversation about how to achieve the country’s climate targets.

Germany should also begin discussing how to phase-out coal from its energy mix, he added, warning that the protection of the climate must not be the sole influencing factor.

These talks, which must include all stakeholders including industry and unions, should instead focus on energy supply security and cost concerns and be led by facts rather than emotions to avoid “political and public earthquakes”, Clean Energy Wire reported.

However, Germany’s largest power producer RWE rejected the idea.

“I think the whole debate [about exiting coal] is unnecessary,” Rolf Martin Schmitz, the utility’s chief operating officer, told Reuters on the sidelines of the Handelsblatt event.

Schmitz also cast doubt on any efforts to ditch coal amid rock-bottom German power prices and the government’s efforts to reform the country’s power market, both of which he said will limit the necessary incentives to invest in alternative generation capacity.

Meanwhile, trade unions called for the creation of a special commission to develop a lignite phase-out plan that would minimise job losses, according to Clean Energy Wire, which also reported that Gabriel deemed calls to develop a long-term strategy to 2050 premature because they were often guided by ideology rather than pragmatism.

His announcement comes in the wake of the breakthrough international climate pact signed in Paris last month, and as Germany begins to consider life after coal, which has fuelled most of the country’s economic development over the past couple centuries.

Germany is considering phasing out lignite-based power from its energy mix within the next 20-to-25 years, German media has reported, as the country pushes forward with a plan to this year begin paying utilities to mothball the first of eight aging power plants to help meet its 2020 emissions target.

Lignite, the most CO2-intensive conventional fossil fuel, currently accounts for around a quarter of Germany’s power generation mix.

The government aims to later this year table a climate protection plan that will set out its long-term strategy for decarbonising the economy.

Gabriel also reiterated that in order to hit its emissions reduction targets, including the upcoming domestic goal to slash GHGs by 40% below 1990 levels by 2020, Germany would need to seek cuts in other sectors including transport and agriculture, and not just power.

By Mike Szabo – mike@carbon-pulse.com

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