Germany must find a way to replace more than half its electricity sources by 2038 as the government prepares to end a 200-year-old reliance on coal. The move is expected to cost as much as €78 billion and cause turmoil for the 60,000 people whose jobs are linked to the industry. It marks a momentous turning point for a country whose rise to prosperity was largely fuelled by coal, and follows a struggle between environmentalists and the business lobby. Although it is expected to help Germany to meet its stringent climate change goals, there are concerns that it could increase the country’s dependence on Russian gas or further drive up its energy prices, already the highest in Europe. At present 51 per cent of the country’s electricity is generated from atomic energy and coal. Under the new proposals, this would fall to 29 per cent by 2022, by which time Angela Merkel has promised to shut down all of the smaller coal-fired plants as well as the nine remaining nuclear power stations. This means that Germany will have to make up almost a quarter of its capacity over the next three years, whether by importing electricity, buying more natural gas, or investing heavily in renewables such as wind and solar.
Times 29th Jan 2019 read more »
On Saturday, a government commission unveiled a plan that calls for the phasing out of coal and lignite power in Germany by 2038. The long transition period reflects the critical importance of coal to the national economy, but is also intended to give affected regions like Cottbus time to prepare for the inevitable economic loss. At heart, however, the phase-out plan is designed to help Germany achieve its ambitious 2030 climate targets, and restore the country’s green credentials after years of setbacks. The question facing German leaders now is: can they deliver on that promise? “What happens in Germany will send out a signal. People are saying: ‘If a country with the wealth and industrial base of Germany is not able to exit coal in an efficient manner, then how can we do it?’,” says Ottmar Edenhofer, director of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research. “The world is looking at us. We have 10 years to solve the coal problem. What is on the line is Germany’s international credibility.” In 2000, Germany became the first major economy to place an all-in bet on wind and solar power, passing a much-copied law that offered high guaranteed feed-in tariffs for renewable energy. The move sparked a wind and solar boom that gathered pace under Ms Merkel. When she took office in 2005, renewables accounted for 10 per cent of the electricity generated in Germany. In the years since, that figure has soared to 40 per cent. Now the Merkel government is plotting the next step, with an official target to lift renewables to 65 per cent of the energy mix by 2030. Since she became chancellor, Germany has committed to closing all its nuclear plants by 2022, invested hundreds of billions of euros in renewable energy and emerged as a pivotal leader in the multilateral effort to combat clima te change. Ms Merkel, a trained scientist and former environment minister, has played a key role in all of these efforts, earning herself the sobriquet of the “climate chancellor”. But as the Merkel era draws to a close – she will not contest the next election, in 2021 – a different narrative is taking shape. Critics point out that, despite all the cost and effort of Germany’s renewables push, the country’s carbon dioxide emissions are barely changed from a decade ago. Last year, Berlin was forced to admit that it would not meet its climate target for 2020, which foresaw a reduction in CO2 emissions by 40 per cent from 1990 levels. The failure dealt an embarrassing blow to the country’s standing as a climate champion, and confirmed suspicions among environmental activists that Germany was no longer the strong ally of old. The problem is that Germany’s renewables boom has done little to lower the country’s overall greenhouse gas emissions. Policymakers had initially hoped that the new solar parks and wind farms would force coal-fired power stations from the grid, effectively replacing the dirtiest with the cleanest form of energy. What happened instead was that renewables put the squeeze on gas-fired stations, which are cleaner than coal plants but also more expensive to run.
FT 29th Jan 2019 read more »