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A coal phase-out that is too expensive and too slow

Deutsche Fassung

Scientists for Future on the present draft law concerning the coal phase-out

26 June 2020 – Scientists for Future Berlin (S4F) comment on the upcoming decision regarding the coal phase-out law and the cabinet’s decision from June 24th on the contract concerning the phase-out of lignite. 

An assessment of the draft law shows that the proposed measures and emission reductions will not be sufficient to meet Germany’s internationally agreed greenhouse gas reduction targets.  Without additional intervention, Germany is in danger of failing to meet both national and international climate protection agreements, which would also entail corresponding penalties. Coal-based power generation in particular, and especially CO2-intensive lignite-based power generation, is the decisive lever for achieving the necessary emission reductions: „A quick coal phase-out by 2030 is technically possible, much easier and economically more favourable than the reduction of greenhouse gases in other sectors, such as the steel industry or the transport sector,“ says energy scientist Dr. Pao-Yu Oei. The large reduction potentials in power generation from coal must be leveraged to create scope for the challenges in other sectors that are much more complex.

The coal phase-out could easily be designed as more economical and effective than envisaged in the draft bill. As Prof. Volker Quaschning, German engineer and professor of renewable energy systems at the Hochschule für Technik und Wirtschaft in Berlin points out, the share of coal in Germany’s net electricity generation is quickly declining anyway: in the first six months of this year it was just under 20 per cent, continuing a tendency: in 2019 it was 29 per cent, and in 2018 it was as much as 37 per cent. Quaschning: „The expansion of renewable energies, favourable gas prices and increased prices for emission certificates have, even without the phase-out law and compensation payments, already pushed back coal-based power generation sharply soley for economic reasons.” In other words, this means that lignite companies are receiving more funds than would be appropriate, because lignite-fired power plants are becoming increasingly unprofitable due to the rapidly changing energy market and would be shut down in the future even without the phase-out law.

The present draft agreement between the German government and the lignite companies, on the other hand, provides for compensation payments of well over four billion euros. Critical assessments have also been submitted by the Federal Environment Ministry and the Bundestag’s Scientific Service. „In the opinion of the experts, there is no entitlement to compensation payments, although the authors recommend transitional and hardship provisions,“ says energy expert Jürgen Blümer. 

The global CO2 budget for achieving the 1.5 degree Celsius target is limited. As a country that emits significantly more greenhouse gases per capita than the global average and that is also one of the most prosperous countries, Germany has the technical and financial means to make greater efforts. The combination of our political and economic decisions, technological developments for sustainable management, and research into future-oriented process knowledge can have important global repercussions beyond what can be directly measured. Our country can assume a global leading role in our future. 

In terms of reducing emissions, the present draft law comes at a steep cost and only has an uncertain outcome.

The full text of the statement.

For inquiries are available:

Prof. Dr. Volker Quaschning,  

Dr. Pao-Yu Oei, , +49-1577-2856573

Note: Today, Friday, at 2:30 pm, the opening of the one-week exhibition „Gallery of Failure“ by Fridays for Future Berlin will take place in Berlin’s Invalidenpark, adjacent to the Federal Ministry of Economics and Technology. (https://fridaysforfuture.berlin/pm-galerie-des-scheiterns/)  

Dr. Timmo Krüger, Leibniz Institute (IRS), will speak there on behalf of  S4F.

Responsible (V.i.S.d.P.): Franz Ossing, Scientists for Future, <>.