By Tsvetana Paraskova
April 4, 2019 - German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier received on Wednesday the symbolic ‘last piece of black coal,’ marking the end of Germany’s two centuries of hard black coal production, while the country struggles to keep up with European peers in curbing emissions.
Germany closed its last black coal mine in December 2018.
In January this year, Germany became the latest large European economy to lay out a plan to phase out coal-fired power generation, aimed at cutting carbon emissions—a metric in which Berlin has been lagging in recent years.
A government-appointed special commission at Europe’s largest economy announced the conclusions of its months-long review and proposed Germany to shut all its 84 coal-fired power plants by 2038.
While Germany will mostly seek to replace coal capacity with renewables, the country’s suppliers of natural gas expect to benefit from the coal exit because natural gas-fired capacity could offer steady supply.
Germany, where coal hard coal and lignite combined currently provide around 35 percent of power generation, has a longer timetable for phasing out coal than the UK and Italy, for example—who plan their coal exit by 2025—not only because of its vast coal industry, but also because Germany will shut down all its nuclear power plants within three years.
The government ordered in 2011 the immediate shutdown of eight of its 17 reactors in the wake of the Fukushima disaster in Japan, and plans to phase out nuclear by 2022.
The closure of all nuclear reactors in Germany by 2022 means that Germany might need to retain half of its coal-fired power generation until 2030 to offset the nuclear phase-out, German Economy and Energy Minister Peter Altmaier said earlier this year.
According to the coal commission’s phase-out proposal—which needs the approval of the government— some 24 coal-fired plants will be shut by 2022. Then, by 2030, Germany is expected to still have eight coal plants operating.