After intensive negotiations, on January 16 the German government, its coal mining states and several major utilities agreed on a roadmap for shutting down the country’s lignite-fired power plants, making Germany the first country in the world with an actual plan to end both nuclear and coal-fired power production. Most critics say that the roadmap deadline of 2038 is too slow, although it adheres to the deadline recommended by Germany’s Coal Exit Commission in 2019. Analysts also criticize an exception which allows a new coal-fired power plant – Datteln 4 – to come online in summer 2020. (Activists pledge to oppose it). A summary of the agreement is provided by Clean Energy Wire, as well as in “Bye Bye Lignite: Understanding Germany’s Coal Phase-out” in Deutsche Welle (Jan. 16), or “How Hard Is It to Quit Coal? For Germany, 18 Years and $44 Billion” in the New York Times (Jan. 16) . Reaction to the plan appears in “Hambach Forest: Germany’s sluggish coal phaseout sparks anger” in Deutsche Welle which states that, although the iconic Hambach forest will be saved, activists and local residents are “appalled” because surrounding villages will not. General reactions from German media appear in English in “’Historic compromise’ or “pact of unreason”? – media reactions to Germany’s coal exit deal” (Jan. 17).
An estimated 20,000 people are employed in Germany’s lignite industry — of which 15,000 work in open-pit mines and 5,000 in lignite power plants. For them, adjustment payments (not yet quantified) will be provided until 2043, following the pattern of provisions for workers in the hard coal sector phase-out which ended in 2018. The coal workers’ union, Industriegewerkschaft Bergbau, Chemie, Energie (IG BCE), said the agreement would “set the benchmark” for a socially acceptable and climate-friendly transformation and would “lay the groundwork for linking social and climate justice.” The leader of the IG BCE stressed that the phase-out roadmap has to be complemented by a “phase-in roadmap” for renewables, which needs to be done urgently.
In addition to billions in compensation to the utility companies such as giant RWE, there are to be support payments for the affected states of Brandenburg, Saxony-Anhalt, Saxony and North Rhine-Westphalia – a total of 14 billion euros until 2038 for direct investments in the regions, and another 26 billion euros provided by the federal government for “further measures” to strengthen local economies.