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German coal commission holds decisive meeting on phase-out conditions

2019-01-26 18:27

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 The German coal commission consisting of politicians, industry figures, economic experts as well as environmental associations and regional representatives is meeting on Friday to determine the plan for Germany's withdrawal from coal-based energy production.

Long negotiations are expected during today's meeting, which is set to be the last and decisive of the German coal commission.

One of the aims of the coal commission is to set a date for the closure of the last coal-fired power plant in Germany. However, a preliminary draft report that was circulated this week did not include an exact date. Currently, Germany generates more than one third of its electricity by coal-fired power plants.

According to the preliminary draft report, Germany's coal commission will suggest implementing checkpoints in the years 2023, 2026 and 2029 at which the conditions of the phase out will be subject to a "comprehensive review by an independent panel of experts".

Furthermore, the commission seeks to decide on possible reliefs for consumers, investments for structural change in the German coal regions as well as a compensation for power plant operators.

In the DeutschlandTrend survey published by German public broadcaster ARD on Friday, 59 percent of respondents were in favor of a rapid phase-out of coal-fired power stations, while 36 percent considered a prolonged withdrawal to be more reasonable.

However, the survey results for Germans living in regions directly affected by the phase-out of coal energy show a different picture. Here, only 34 percent of respondents support a quick exit from coal energy, while 61 percent wanted to phase-out of coal energy over a longer period of time.

A "politically accelerated decline in coal-fired power generation" by 2030 would create additional cost up to 54 billion euros (61.2 billion U.S. dollars), the Federation of German Industries (BDI) warned. BDI president Dieter Kempf therefore called for "compensation" for affected German companies, adding that as a business location, Germany would suffer "most severe damages".

"An accelerated coal phase-out is the second mammoth task for German energy policy within a few years after the phase-out of nuclear energy," said Utz Tillmann, chairman of the German association of the chemical industry (VCI), according to the newspaper Augsburger Allgemeine on Friday.

Germany is the only industrial country in the world that has decided to phase out "both nuclear as well as coal power in parallel", economy minister Peter Altmaier said during the Handelsblatt energy summit this week.

The German government has decided to phase out nuclear energy by 2022 at the latest.

The chairman of Germany's Green party, Annalena Baerbock, however, warned against handing out "blank checks" to coal companies. "Public money must be used in the interests of the public. This is the only way to break the Gordian knot of the commission meeting on Friday," Baerbock told the German newspaper "Rheinische Post" on Friday.

"Now it will be decided if Germany is willing to protect the climate," said Baerbock
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