Friday meeting may spell end to coal-powered energy in Germany

Friday’s Federal Coal Commission meeting in Berlin is set to decide upon the future of Germany’s energy generation.

Friday meeting may spell end to coal-powered energy in Germany
Photo: DPA

A majority of Germans support an immediate end to coal-generated electricity, which is necessary for the country to meet its 2030 climate targets – however critics have warned against a rushed transition.

While the negotiations are expected to be extensive, there are indications that the meeting may result in the end of coal use in Germany. 

It is set to plan the country’s exit from coal power, as well as support funding and subsidies. The final report is expected to include support for coal workers and coal companies, as well as investment for regions which have been historically dependent on the coal industry. 

A detailed outline for how the electricity industry can make the transition is also expected to be drawn up. 

Increasingly against coal use

An ARD Morgen Magazine poll found that just under 60 percent of voters were in favour of an immediate phase out of energy generation using brown coal. Just 36 percent preferred that the phaseout be delayed to prevent supply shortages and job losses. 

The results were not uniform, however. The states of Brandenburg, Saxony and Saxony-Anhalt, where jobs are more likely to be affected by the early exit, supported delaying it. Just one third of respondents (34 percent) supported an immediate exit, with 61 percent opposed. 

In December, Germany already closed its last black coal mining – which had been a staple for jobs in the Ruhr region for over two decades.

Environmental organizations and political welcomed the meeting as an opportunity to leave coal-powered energy generation behind for good. The coal exit is required if Germany is to meet its 2030 international emissions targets. 

No longer a 'safe or efficient' source of electricity

Greens chairman Annalena Baerbock criticised the state’s support of coal-powered energy, saying it was no longer a safe, necessary or efficient source of electricity. 

“We must now decide whether Germany is willing to prioritise climate protection. The climate target of 2030 must stand. Otherwise we will not be able to prevent a climate crisis” Ms Baerbock told the Rheinische Post. 

The ‘Fridays For Future’ movement planned a rally outside the Ministry for the Economy during the Coal Commission meeting at midday, encouraging students to skip school and attend. 

Luisa Neubauer, a spokesperson for the organization, said a quick exit from coal power was imperative in reducing the risks associated with climate change. 

SEE ALSO: Thousands march in Germany calling for an end to coal power

“We demand that politicians finally take the climate crisis seriously and preserve our future,” Ms Neubaeur told DPA.

Others have been cautiously supportive, arguing against a rushed exit without ensuring that contingencies are in place.

Ernst Ulrich von Weizsäcker, the Honorary President of the Club of Rome NGO, said that any exits from coal power must be accompanied by stipends or other support for poorer families who would be hit hardest by the moves. 

“Otherwise we will have the same yellow vest demonstrations here (as in France), which will not get us anywhere” he said. 

'A moral example'

Mr von Weizsäcker said reducing reliance on coal was not just important for Germany, but to set a “moral” example for the world as a whole – particularly in other poorer countries where coal continues to be by far the primary energy source. 

“Otherwise the South Africans and the Colombians will be able to say that even the rich Germans are doing nothing” he said. 

Representatives of the Germany energy industry have criticised the potential withdrawal, arguing it will lead to increases price for consumers. 

Utz Tillmann of the German Chemical Industry Association said the withdrawal should be delayed as the energy industry was already struggling to cope after the withdrawal from nuclear power. 

“We expect the price to rise significantly if the coal power goes out” Tillmann told the Augsburger Allgemeine. 

“An accelerated coal phase out after the nuclear energy exit is the second mammoth task for German energy policymakers within a few years.” 





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German government announces fresh relief package for high energy costs

With Russia's invasion in Ukraine exacerbating high energy and petrol prices, Germany is set to introduce a second relief package to limit the impact on consumers.

German government announces fresh relief package for high energy costs

The additional package of measures was announced by Economy and Climate Protection Minister Robert Habeck (Greens) on Sunday.

Speaking to DPA, Habeck said the wave of price increases throughout the energy sector were becoming increasingly difficult for households to bear.

“Extremely high heating costs, extremely high electricity prices, and extremely high fuel prices are putting a strain on households, and the lower the income, the more so,” he said. “The German government will therefore launch another relief package.”

The costs of heating and electricity have hit record highs in the past few months due to post-pandemic supply issues. 

This dramatic rise in prices has already prompted the government to introduce a range of measures to ease the burden on households, including abolishing the Renewable Energy Act (EEG) levy earlier than planned, offering grants to low-income households and increasing the commuter allowance. 

READ ALSO: EXPLAINED: What Germany’s relief package against rising prices means for you

But since Russia invaded neighbouring Ukraine on February 24th, the attack has been driving up energy prices further, Habeck explained.

He added that fears of supply shortages and speculation on the market were currently making the situation worse. 

How will the package work?

When defining the new relief measures, the Economics Ministry will use three criteria, Habeck revealed. 

Firstly, the measures must span all areas of the energy market, including heating costs, electricity and mobility. 

Heating is the area where households are under the most pressure. The ministry estimates that the gas bill for an average family in an unrenovated one-family house will rise by about €2,000 this year. 

Secondly, the package should include measures to help save energy, such as reducing car emissions or replacing gas heating systems.

Thirdly, market-based incentives should be used to ensure that people who use less energy also have lower costs. 

“The government will now put together the entire package quickly and constructively in a working process,” said Habeck.

Fuel subsidy

The three-point plan outlined by the Green Party politician are not the only relief proposals being considered by the government.

According to reports in German daily Bild, Finance Minister Christian Lindner (FPD) is allegedly considering introducing a state fuel subsidy for car drivers.

The amount of the subsidy – which hasn’t yet been defined – would be deducted from a driver’s bill when paying at the petrol station. 

The operator of the petrol station would then have to submit the receipts to the tax authorities later in order to claim the money back. 

Since the start of the war in Ukraine, fuel prices have risen dramatically in Germany: diesel has gone up by around 66 cents per litre, while a litre of E10 has gone up by around 45 cents.

READ ALSO: EXPLAINED: The everyday products getting more expensive in Germany

As well as support for consumers, the government is currently working on a credit assistance programme to assist German companies that have been hit hard by the EU sanctions against Russia.

As reported by Bild on Saturday, bridging aid is also being discussed for companies that can no longer manage the sharp rise in raw material prices.

In addition, an extension of the shorter working hours (Kurzarbeit) scheme beyond June 30th is allegedly being examined, as well as a further increase in the commuter allowance.