Actions by Ende Ende in the Rhineland: At dawn to the blockade

Despite Corona, Endegebiet is again blocking the lignite mine in the Rhineland this weekend. RWE employees act aggressively.

Activists of the orange finger from Ende Terrain at the action in Garzweiler on September 26th Photo: David Young / dpa

GARZWEILER taz | “That doesn’t help,” the policeman says to his colleague, “retreat!” There are only two of them, he gets back into the police car, slams the door and they drive away. The 200 people in the white painters’ suits can continue their way undisturbed on the small country road in the dark. Your destination: Garzweiler, the largest open-cast coal mine in Europe, a good 30 kilometers southwest of Düsseldorf.

From the camps, which this year are small and decentralized in the Rhenish lignite mining area due to the corona hygiene measures, several demonstration trains set off on Saturday morning, September 26, well before sunrise. As in every autumn or late summer since 2015, the climate activists from Endegebiet have again called for actions of massive civil disobedience in the Rhineland this year.

Around 3,000 activists are there – half as many as last year, but still many in view of the corona pandemic and the cold rainy weather. About half of them use the darkness in the early morning hours and leave between four and six in the morning. As has already been tried and tested in the end of the terrain campaigns, the activists have divided themselves into “demo fingers” of 200 people named after colors.

With sunrise and the closer the demo trains get to the coal mine and power plants, the balance of power between police officers and activists changes. The blue-purple finger, which had come unnoticed by train from the camp to the Frimmersdorf train station, is accompanied on the Landstrasse from seven o’clock by a helmeted hundred. A few minutes later, however, the breakthrough came at a fork in the road: Around a hundred activists ran past the officers into a field, scrambled through a ditch, ran across wet grass and bushes towards the coal mine. The officers fail to stop them. A good hundred people slide down the steep embankment into the coal mine.

At the bottom they are stopped by a police chain and around 30 security employees from the coal company RWE. RWE employees in the orange safety vests also attack press representatives aggressively. They pull a journalist to the ground and put him in a headlock. They try to take away the cell phone from others, press them, run after them and try to kick them between the legs.

“We have house rights here and you turn off the camera immediately,” one of them shouts. In some places the police intervened. RWE spokesman Matthias Beigel says: “Nobody has the right to penetrate here, not even the press.” It’s about security.

Successful blockades, but also police violence

The activists from the blue-purple finger of Ende Terrain are finally surrounded by the police and cannot get any closer to the lignite excavators, but they have achieved one goal: The excavators are at a standstill.

At ten o’clock in the morning the alliance at the end of the terrain reports various other successes. Another finger has reached the Weisweiler coal-fired power station, another at the Lausward gas-fired power station. The fact that the activists are also targeting gas infrastructure is new: natural gas is presented far too often in public discourse as a climate-friendly alternative to coal – a “dirty lie”, says the alliance’s spokeswoman Kim Solievna. “It’s insane to invest billions in natural gas, pipelines and fracking ports instead of renewable energies. We’re here to expose natural gas as a climate killer. ”During the extraction, storage and transport of fossil fuels, a lot of climate-hostile methane is released into the atmosphere.

In addition to reports of success, activists also report police violence. In Cologne-Ehrenfeld, helmeted police officers with batons got on a train and hit the activists.

Another demonstration, the golden finger, tries to break out of Camp Keyenberg around noon on Saturday. Most of the activists, however, are quickly pushed back into the camp by the police, including mounted officers. There is an arrest and the finger cannot start for the time being. The village of Keyenberg is one of the six villages that are about to fall victim to the expanding open pit.

A total of 14 fingers should be on the move in the Rhenish lignite mining area at this end of the terrain campaign weekend. Many of the activists are equipped with sleeping bags, sleeping mats and tins. You are preparing to spend the night on rails or in open-cast mines.

.

Climate protection and Fridays for Future: dangerous fixation at 1.5 degrees

The climate movement should not make an unattainable goal the sole criterion for making decisions. Otherwise she will never be able to look forward to successes.

As correct as the 1.5 degree target is in theory, it is just as unrealistic in practice Photo: Christian Ditsch / image

On Friday they will protest again on the streets and online: the students of Fridays for Future (FFF) and everyone who shares their demands. And with the motto “No further degrees!” They make it clear what they want: a policy that is suitable “to limit global warming to below 1.5 degrees Celsius”, according to the central FFF demand. This goal is fundamentally entirely correct.

If the temperature rises by only 1.5 degrees on a global average compared to pre-industrial times, the scientists agree that the rise in sea level, the decline in ecosystems and the increases in extreme weather events will be significantly lower than if the rise was 2 degrees amounts. The probability that irreversible tipping points in the climate system will be exceeded, for example when ice sheets melt or methane is released from the permafrost, increases significantly above 1.5 degrees.

At the same time, the complete fixation on the 1.5-degree target is dangerous. Because if this goal is correct in theory, it is just as unrealistic in practice – even if you are not a pessimist. 1.1 of 1.5 degrees have already been reached. In order to go below the 1.5 mark, changes would be so rapid and so radical – worldwide – that this goal is in fact unattainable. Many scientists also admit that.

Not only the industrialized countries, but all countries would have to have reduced their greenhouse gas emissions to zero between 2050 and 2060; and even then, in most scenarios, there would be negative emissions, i.e. the underground storage of CO2 from biomass incineration, required to achieve the goal.

Imminent resignation

For good reason, the Paris Agreement does not include the 1.5 degree target, but a target of “well below 2 degrees”, combined with “efforts to limit the increase to 1.5 degrees”. In order to put Germany on a reasonably safe 1.5-degree path, the country would have to be climate-neutral by 2026 – which is so unrealistic that the Greens, as a self-declared climate protection party, do not have a concept that is consistent with it.

The fact that the 1.5 degree target is hardly realistic any longer does not mean that it should be given up. Political demands of a movement should not only be based on what is supposedly feasible, but on what is objectively necessary. But it would be wise to view the goal less in absolute terms than is currently the case among climate activists. Because there is often a concern: once the 1.5 degrees are exceeded, everything is too late. And associated with it the criticism: All measures that do not result in the safe compliance with the 1.5 degree target are a disaster. It’s a dangerous strategy.

On the one hand, narrowing to a barely achievable goal can lead to problems with mobilization. If it becomes clear that the 1.5 degrees can no longer be achieved, there is a risk of resignation: Then conveying that the fight for 1.7 or 2.1 degrees is worthwhile becomes all the more difficult, the more in the run-up to the The impression is given that the world can no longer be saved from 1.5 degrees.

On the other hand, with the 1.5-degree goal as the only yardstick, movement takes the opportunity to celebrate successes to which it has contributed. Because they do exist: The announcement by EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen that the EU will reduce emissions by at least 55 percent by 2030 compared to 1990 levels is quite spectacular – especially when you consider that it was exactly that before five Years ago, the major German environmental associations and the Greens two years ago. Nonetheless, FFF pioneer Luisa Neubauer reacted to the announcement with biting criticism: The proposal raises the question of “whether the Commission wants to comply with the Paris Agreement at all,” she said.

Coal pushed out of the market

The situation is similar with the latest climate paper by Peter Altmaier: For a long time it reads in such a way that one does not know whether it comes from the CDU economics minister or from Fridays for Future. Of course, one can rightly ask whether there will be any real consequences. But the fact that Altmaier makes the analysis of movement his own, at least on paper, is a relevant shift, because these words will be used to measure him in future.

With coal, too, the situation is far better than the movement’s outrage over the far too late end date suggests: Regardless of this political agreement, coal-fired power plants are currently being pushed out of the market much faster than the Coal Commission had ever hoped – and not only because of Corona, but also because of the higher CO2-Prize of the EU, which is now having an effect for the first time after a hard-fought reform.

The same can be achieved in other areas. The CO2-The price for heating and transport, which the federal government agreed a year ago in the wake of the climate strike, is still too low even after its significant increase by the Federal Council. But it is a step in the right direction that future governments can build on.

Not recognizing such progress, but instead even demonizing it because it does not reach the 1.5 degree goal, is not only dangerous for the further motivation of the striking students. It is also politically counterproductive. Because if it makes no difference in the outrage on the street whether steps backwards, stagnation or too little progress are decided, it is also disheartening for those who struggle within the government for such improvements. A successful climate policy therefore needs both: big goals and sharp criticism – but also an eye for small successes.

.

Constitutional complaint against “Lex Garzweiler” (neue-deutschland.de)

How many towns still have to give way to coal?

Photo: dpa / David Young

RWE intends to excavate lignite from the earth at the Garzweiler opencast mine by 2038. According to the coal phase-out law of the federal government, the energy company is allowed to do that. There, a guarantee of existence for Garzweiler was laid down. Without a special examination, whether the opencast mining is necessary from an energy point of view and whether there might not be planning options that prevent the destruction of the villages on the edge of the mine.

There is resistance to this. There were several demonstrations and excavation occupations following the destruction of a country road connecting several villages and keeping the coal hole at bay. A permanent vigil with a protest camp has been set up. And legal action is also being taken against the mine.

Villagers got together a year ago and bought a plot of land on the outskirts of Keyenberg. The property separates the villages from the coal excavators and the owners are determined not to give it up and to carry out the process of expropriation through all possible instances. In addition, they have now lodged a constitutional complaint against the “Lex Garzweiler” in the coal exit law. “I assume that the Garzweiler paragraph does not stand before the Federal Constitutional Court, because it represents a single opencast mine without any justification as necessary for the energy industry,” said the lawyer Dirk Teßmer, who represents those affected by the mine. Teßmer is no newcomer to this field. In 2013, he won the right before the Federal Constitutional Court when it came to the expropriation of an orchard of the environmental association BUND on the edge of the open pit. The expropriation had already been carried out at this point and the meadow had been dredged, but the court had criticized the fact that the rights of those affected and environmental aspects had not been adequately examined. Teßmer was also involved in the procedure that led to the clearing of the Hambach Forest. He is optimistic about the current constitutional complaint. “The rights of my mandates should take precedence over the promotion of climate-damaging lignite.”

»Everyone should know that people in Germany are still losing their homes to mining lignite – with the full approval of the federal government. That is why we are going to court today. Our fight has only just begun, ”said Barbara Oberherr from the threatened village of Keyenberg.

She is one of 36 plaintiffs against the coal exit law. For them and the other villagers, it is about their home and often also about their economic existence. For example, farms with large lots are not planned in the resettlement villages. The villagers get help from the German Institute for Economic Research (DIW), a study that had already shown in the spring that it is not necessary from an energy point of view to dredge the coal under the villages. A few days ago, however, I heard from RWE that the group wanted to initiate the expropriation. “As an amicable agreement does not seem to be possible at the moment, RWE Power is preparing an application to the Arnsberg district government for land assignment,” said a spokesman.

.

Phasing out coal and planning for the future: bloom, not glow

The federal government wants to invest 40 billion euros in the coal regions – for new rails, roads and research institutes.

In the Lausitz near Finsterwalde: the former opencast mine is now a visitor mine Photo: Clemens Zahn / laif

BERLIN taz | The federal government wants to shape the post-carbon era with tens of billions of euros. On Thursday the government and the lignite states signed an agreement in Berlin that will release one billion euros each for around 80 projects this year and next.

At the same time, they set up a joint committee to select the further projects that are to economically cushion the end of lignite production in the Lausitz, in the Central German district in Saxony-Anhalt and in the Rhineland. A total of 40 billion euros in federal funds will flow over 20 years, plus another 2 billion euros from the EU in the first few years.

State Secretary Ulrich Nussbaum from the Federal Ministry of Economics said: “By 2038 we not only want to mitigate the consequences of the coal phase-out, but we want to show that the phase-out can be an opportunity for modernization and growth.”

The head of the Brandenburg State Chancellery, Kathrin Schneider, assured: “Lusatia is already in working mode. The priority is to strengthen and develop competitiveness. “

Money for the heating transition, electricity storage, CO2-free industry

The list of projects is long. This includes new roads and rails, research institutes and the expansion and development of new industries, which mainly belong to the areas of renewable energies, efficiency, storage technologies and biotechnology. There are plans for a new ICE connection between Cottbus and Berlin and a better connection from Leipzig to Chemnitz, but also a number of roads.

In addition, the University of Cottbus is to get a branch for medicine, the German Aerospace Center DLR wants a research center on CO in the city2-free industry and research into alternative fuels in Jülich. Research on the bioeconomy is planned in Leuna, and centers for nature conservation data and biodiversity are to be established near Leipzig.

“We want the affected regions to be in a significantly better position in 20 years’ time than they are today,” says the Federal Ministry of Economics. So far, however, there have only been “Potemkin villages” when it comes to structural change, criticized Oliver Krischer, deputy head of the green parliamentary group. What is needed are “clear criteria and an understandable explanation of what the money is for”. Investments must be made in climate protection and not in roads or in electricity storage for coal-fired electricity.

The climate policy spokesman for the left-wing parliamentary group, Lorenz Gösta Beutin, suggests setting up foundations in the regions that make transparent and democratic decisions about the allocation of funds. The structural change must be “organized with the people on site,” it said.

The basis for the investments are the resolutions of the “Coal Commission” of 2019, which was actually called the “Commission for Growth, Structural Change and Employment”. It stipulated the coal cut-off by 2038, but also compensation for companies and the regions.

Of the total of 40 billion euros, Lusatia receives 43 percent, the Rheinische Revier 37 and the Central German Revier 20 percent. 14 billion flow to the federal states that have set up programs for broadband expansion, local public transport or local economic aid, for example, while the federal government is investing 26 billion in research into air taxis or the “heating transition”.

In addition, the countries can now also receive money from Brussels. In the “Fund for a Just Transition”, a total of 17.5 billion euros has been earmarked for coal regions in the EU budget and the corona aid program. According to the EU-internal distribution key, Germany is entitled to another 2 billion euros from this pot.

.

Lignite compensation not yet wrapped up (neue-deutschland.de)

Profen open-cast lignite mine

Profen open-cast lignite mine

Photo: dpa / Jan Woitas

The coal phase-out in 2038 is said to have been made since the Bundestag passed the phase-out law in early July. At the same time, however, the plan failed to have the public law contract signed for the 4.35 billion euros in compensation for the power plant owners RWE and Leag. In response to the massive criticism, a public hearing is to take place in the Bundestag’s economic committee on September 7th.

RWE is to receive 2.6 billion euros for the shutdown of power plants and the closure of opencast mines, the Leag 1.75 billion euros. These funds can only flow if the EU allows billions in compensation under state aid law. A date for this is not yet known. In addition, the affected energy company EnBW refuses to sign the contract as long as possible recourse claims by the Central German lignite supplier Mibrag have not been clarified. All of this makes the operators nervous. RWE has now warned of delays in payments. The contract must be signed soon because the first power plant in the Rhenish district will be shut down at the end of 2020, the company said.

At the same time, the general criticism of the compensation contract continues. If it were up to an analysis recently presented by the Forum Ökologische-Soziale Marktwirtschaft (FÖS), parts of the contract practically belong in the shredder. The authors Swantje Fiedler and Isabel Schrems criticize the fact that, according to the contract, the closure of individual lignite units can be brought forward by three years – but at the same time, the draft contract creates the possibility that lignite companies could »demand further compensation in the future if lignite power plants were decided earlier than in the coal phase-out act be shut down «.

Because the billions in compensation only apply to systems that will go offline by 2030 – shutdowns thereafter are practically free of compensation. However, if the legislature wants to take plants that are only to be shut down after 2030 off the grid, the draft contract stipulates that these early shutdowns will only remain without compensation if they are decided at least five years before the early shutdown date. If politicians decide to get out of coal sooner, further compensation could be due.

The FÖS experts also have doubts about the regulations that are intended to prevent Leag and RWE from collecting the compensation and passing it on to their owners as a return – which would leave the public sector with the costs of renovating the coal mine. FÖS economist Fiedler recognizes in the regulations the “attempt to secure the funds for the follow-up cost financing” – especially with the Lausitzer Leag, where the “security efforts” are much greater than with RWE. Nevertheless, the efforts are inadequate, criticizes Fiedler. With regard to the regulations that affect the RWE Group, the FÖS analysis fears that the payments will simply go into the Group’s assets. The contract suggests that the claim to the billions can be recorded in the balance sheet in the annual financial statements of RWE Power AG immediately after the contract has been concluded, thus improving the result for the 2020 financial year suddenly, even if the money is not paid out in real terms until later. Due to the profit and loss transfer agreement of the subsidiary RWE Power with RWE AG, profits could then be transferred directly to the parent company and distributed to shareholders, explains the FÖS. The “disappearance” of the funds in the parent company can only be prevented if they are shown separately in the balance sheet.

It can hardly be expected that the Leag-RWE contract will survive the committee debate unchanged. The more important question is whether the objections will have an impact on the coal phase-out. In Swantje Fiedler’s view, the possible effects cannot yet be conclusively assessed. If the contract is only improved “on a small scale” or only transparency about the compensation is created, the coal phase-out law would not have to be changed again, said Fiedler. But she admits: “It certainly depends on the scope of the changes.”

.

Steag brings coal compromise to the Federal Constitutional Court

Düsseldorf At the beginning of July, shortly before the parliamentary summer break, it seemed as if the next big argument about the energy transition in Germany had finally been cleared. After the nuclear phase-out, the end of coal production and power generation was sealed. The Bundestag and Bundesrat passed the law, which is supposed to regulate the coal phase-out. The first coal-fired power plants are expected to go online soon, the last one will be shut down in 2038.

The dispute over coal is far from over: like the end of nuclear energy, the end of coal will also occupy the Federal Constitutional Court. Electricity producer Steag, one of the largest operators of hard coal-fired power plants in Germany, is preparing a constitutional complaint, according to information from the Handelsblatt newspaper, and submits an urgent application in advance. The company does not want to stop the coal phase-out, but demands better compensation for the shutdown of its plants.

Steag sees in the regulations of the law on the reduction and termination of coal-fired power generation (KVBG) an “unauthorized interference in her protected by the Basic Law and the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the EU right to property”, it was said in the circles for justification. At the same time, however, it was also emphasized that the aim was not to prevent the law from entering into force or to delay its implementation. The federal government’s climate protection goals are expressly supported.

Steag operates eight blocks in hard coal-fired power plants in Germany with a total of 4,000 megawatts of net output. Like other operators of hard coal-fired power plants, the Essen-based company had repeatedly complained in advance about the modalities of the coal phase-out. The operators of hard coal-fired power plants feel disadvantaged compared to the lignite companies, for which lavish compensation for the coal phase-out was fixed at an early stage.

The law that passed the Bundestag and the federal government on July 3 provides legal certainty for companies that operate and promote lignite. Production in the opencast mines will gradually decrease, and the lignite-fired power plants will go offline accordingly. At the same time, it regulates what compensation the lignite companies should receive. In total, their compensation will add up to 4.3 billion euros.

Hard displacement competition

The operators of hard coal power plants will probably only get half of the sum. Above all, they have to face tough predatory competition. The plants are to be gradually pushed out of the market. In auctions, operators can apply for the decommissioning with appropriate compensation.

Anyone who does not get a chance, however, must expect to be decommissioned from 2024 without compensation, because then old systems can be forced out of the network by law. A total of eight auctions are planned. The first is planned for September.

The modalities were improved shortly before the law was passed in favor of the coal industry. But Steag is not yet satisfied. “The maximum prices that can be achieved are inappropriately low,” is criticized in the corporate circles. In addition, the auction conditions are “unclear and illegal” in numerous points.

Since the highest prices to be achieved in the first auction, which is already scheduled for September 1, are still the most attractive, the volume in this auction should be expanded by around 20 percent. A corresponding request was made in the urgent application. At the same time, the Federal Constitutional Court should determine that the surcharges are only provisional in terms of the amount and their appropriateness can be checked in the main proceedings, was demanded in the corporate circles. A company spokesman declined to comment on request.

This threatens a similar legal aftermath to the coal phase-out as it had already burdened the nuclear phase-out. After the federal government canceled the recently agreed extension of the operating times for German nuclear power plants in 2011 and sealed the final end for nuclear energy in Germany in 2022, the operators of the reactors filed numerous complaints. Among other things, Eon, RWE and Vattenfall lodged constitutional complaints asking for compensation.

In fact, the Federal Constitutional Court in 2016 partially agreed with the companies. It did not question the exit law. After the decision of the constitutional judges, the federal government had the right to accelerate the nuclear phase-out again. However, the federal government had to compensate the operators for investments already made and for expired electricity production rights.

The coal phase-out should actually be regulated by consensus. In mid-2018, the federal government set up a commission that included representatives from business and politics as well as environmentalists. At the beginning of 2019, she submitted a proposal on how the coal phase-out should be accomplished quickly, but also in a way that is acceptable to companies, employees and the regions affected. But even the road map that the Commission presented in early 2019 met with criticism. The coal phase-out did not go quickly enough for environmentalists, and the economy feared for security of supply.

Subsequently, the modalities were discussed with the lignite companies RWE, Leag and Mibrag, because the exit from the lignite is particularly difficult to organize. When it comes to lignite, it is not just a matter of taking the power plants off the grid, it is also a question of gradually reducing the production in the open-cast mines in the Rheinische Revier, the Lausitz and the Central German district and at the same time organizing the recultivation. In addition, the politicians in the affected eastern German states in particular insisted on structural aid because the lignite mining is an important employer there.

Lignite versus hard coal

At the beginning of 2019, there was a comprehensive concept of how the lignite exit should be organized, the companies should be compensated and the regions supported. In contrast, the operators of hard coal power plants felt neglected for a long time. The operators of older hard coal-fired power plants feared that their plants could be forced out of the market by regulatory law if they did not come into play at one of the planned auctions in good time. Operators of younger hard coal-fired power plants feared that they would no longer be able to make their investments due to the limited term.

In fact, they made significant improvements shortly before the law was passed. The government factions once again significantly amended the bill in favor of the operators of hard coal-fired power plants. They granted the operators higher compensation for the shutdown of their plants – and at the same time offered them high incentives to convert coal-fired power plants to highly efficient gas and thermal power plants.

The bonus that companies receive for the conversion was increased from 180 euros per kilowatt to 390 euros if a coal-fired power plant was not older than 25 years. With each passing year, the bonus drops by 25 euros. Power plants that are older than 25 years and younger than 35 years should initially get 225 euros per kilowatt. Here, too, the total decreases with a later change.

But this is particularly important for younger plants. And the concessions on decommissioning also benefit the operators of younger plants. The tender rounds, in which the tenderer receives the least compensation, should actually run until 2026. The coal-fired power plants should then be gradually shut down by 2033, depending on their age – and without compensation. The last call for tenders is now planned for 2027.

In addition, the already planned evaluations of the coal phase-out in 2022, 2026 and 2029, in which the schedule for the phase-out from lignite should be checked, now also include the younger coal plants that have only been in operation since 2010. It should be checked whether an adjustment of the legal framework is necessary. A hardship case regulation should be possible for young hard coal plants that had not received any compensation through the tender process up to the time of the evaluations and could not use support programs for retrofitting.

Old systems should be out of the market

Operators like Steag, who have some old systems in their portfolios, don’t do anything. Admittedly, the amount of the maximum possible compensation was significantly increased when the law was amended. Steag would also benefit from this. The company does not yet have enough compensation.

Steag welcomed the fact that it was possible to negotiate appropriate compensation regulations and a decommissioning path with the operators of lignite-fired power plants and to agree them in contracts, it said in the corporate circles. “However, it is incomprehensible that no such talks were held with the operators of hard coal-fired power plants and that inappropriate compensation regulations were imposed on them.”

It was also not understandable that the law largely curtailed legal protection before the civil and administrative courts, forcing Steag into a constitutional complaint that remained her only legal protection option.

The company also complains about the passage of time in the legislative process. Although the law was passed on July 3, it has not yet been published. The first auction should start on September 1st.

Steag was struggling with plans to take legal action against the law. The constitutional complaint is only possible once the law has entered into force. Therefore, the electricity producer, which belongs to a consortium of municipal utilities from the Ruhr area, decided to apply for urgent legal protection before the Federal Constitutional Court before the law came into force in order to be able to obtain legal protection before the first decommissioning auction on September 1, 2020. “At a later stage, Steag’s constitutional complaint will shake,” was also emphasized in the circles.

More: EnBW faces the coal exit.

.

Trump’s Hätschel child is no longer on its feet (neue-deutschland.de)

United States and coal: Trump's Hätschel child no longer gets on its feet

Foto: dpa / AP / Evan Vucci

For the first time in 130 years when wood was the primary fuel, renewable energy sources in the United States have exceeded coal-fired power generation. This is based on current figures from the US Energy Information Administration (EIA). According to the agency, wind energy exceeded electricity generation from hydropower plants for the first time. But natural gas also grew.

The decline in coal consumption is related to the sharp drop in electricity demand due to the corona shutdown and falling electricity prices. The energy suppliers are likely to shut down their unprofitable coal-fired power plants to save money. “The impact of the social distancing guidelines is likely to continue to affect US power consumption in the coming months,” predicts the EIA. The agency estimates that coal-fired power plants will only deliver 19 percent of US electricity this year, a drop in demand by a quarter.

This has consequences: coal mining companies continue to cut jobs. “As Covid-19 continues to devastate the US economy, domestic coal demand has declined,” said a Navajo Transitional Energy Company statement announcing the loss of 100 jobs in the state of Wyoming. Despite “temporary wage cuts”, additional jobs had to be cut in the Antelope mine near the city of Gillette. In April, Westview-based Longview Power, which operates one of the most advanced coal-fired power plants in the United States, even filed for bankruptcy. It justified the move with the unusually warm winter, cheap natural gas and the slump in demand from Corona.

The drop in coal-fired power generation is remarkable because U.S. President Donald Trump and his Republican allies once promised to protect this industry. Even new jobs should be created in the mining industry. To this end, Trump announced the struggle to cut greenhouse gas emissions from the Obama era.

The EPA, now headed by Scott Pruitt, a denier of man-made climate change, recently released new rules to undermine the Clean Air Act. So you want to use other methods of measuring pollution that would result in significantly lower values.

This should help the coal industry. It praises itself as the last resort provider when renewable energy cannot be produced. “Coal can be shipped on demand, unlike temporary wind and solar sources,” said the American Coal Council lobby group. »Coal-fired power plants strengthen the resilience of the power grid even in cold winters and hot summers, when the demand for electricity is greatest and the demand skyrockets.«

Trump originally wanted to instruct network operators to buy electricity from coal and nuclear power plants at prices above the market price in order to subsidize the increasingly unprofitable plants. A flood of criticism prompted the president to withdraw this idea. Since Trump took office in 2017, 50 coal-fired power plants have been decommissioned. This year, according to the EIA forecasts, CO2 emissions in energy generation will decrease by eleven percent and thus significantly more than electricity consumption.

Environmentalists naturally welcome the decline in coal. It is good for the environment and a warning that new jobs in sustainable, green industries are an excellent way to boost the economy after the corona crisis has subsided, said Cherelle Blazer, spokeswoman for Sierra Club, the oldest environmental organization in the United States. The fact that air pollution appears to be a factor in severe Covid 19 diseases is another reason to fight harder to force coal out of the grid.

.

Criticism of the coal exit law: Non-transparent compensation

The coal law continues to cause controversy shortly before its adoption. According to the Ökoinstitut, operators get far too much money.

There was also little transparency on Wednesday: Greenpeace campaign at the CDU headquarters Photo: Hannibal Hanschke / reuters

On Friday the time has come: After long negotiations, the Bundestag should then pass the two laws regulating the phase-out of coal use and the adjustment money for the coal regions. Part of the package includes high compensation: RWE, as operator of the lignite opencast mines and power plants in the Rhineland, is to receive 2.6 billion euros, the leag for the East German areas 1.75 billion. There was a lot of criticism, especially from the start, about the compensation for the Leag, because the agreed exit does not produce much less coal than planned anyway.

In response to this criticism, the Federal Ministry of Economics and Business had commissioned a consortium of auditors to review the operators’ plans. However, even two days before the planned enactment of the law, her opinion has still not been published. In mid-June, at the request of the Green MPs Lisa Badum, the Ministry of Economic Affairs announced: “So far, only a draft version of the report is available, which is why the results cannot be anticipated here.”

When asked by taz, the ministry said on Wednesday that the report should be published “very promptly”. It remains to be seen whether this will happen before the Bundestag vote. The economic committee already approved the compensation on Wednesday without knowing its basis. Badum is outraged about this: “It is scandalous that the federal government itself let the coal operators be screened and is now keeping these results under wraps from the MPs and the public,” she told the taz.

Greenpeace covers the CDU headquarters

Greenpeace also protested against the lack of transparency on Wednesday: several climbers from the environmental organization covered the entire facade of the CDU party headquarters with black fabric and denounced the banner “Dark business with the coal industry”. “Minister Altmaier negotiated with the coal industry a billion-dollar operating period that was too long for its particularly climate-damaging lignite-fired power plants,” says Greenpeace climate expert Karsten Smid. “The present coal law mocks climate protection. It has to be completely revised before it can be voted on in the Bundestag this Friday. “

Karsten Smid, Greenpeace

“The present coal law mocks climate protection”

Chancellor Angela Merkel (CDU), on the other hand, defended the exit plan in the Bundestag as a “very important step”. She rejected the allegation that the recommendations of the coal commission were not being implemented exactly: “In principle, we are following the exit path to some extent,” said the Chancellor.

The Freiburg Oeko-Institut meanwhile submitted its own calculations on the amount of adequate compensation on Wednesday: In view of the reduced profitability of lignite, the planned payment to Leag is about one billion too high, it says. At RWE, this depends on how high the exit-related conversion costs of the opencast mines are; the planned compensation could be up to a billion too high.

Greens agree to structural change

A majority for the laws is considered safe in the Bundestag and Bundesrat. The exit law, which the Greens in the Bundestag want to reject due to numerous criticisms, cannot be stopped despite their participation in eleven state governments in the Bundesrat, because it does not require approval there. On the other hand, the Länderkammer must approve the Structural Strengthening Act, in which the funds for the affected regions are promised – and will probably do so with the votes of the green-ruled countries.

The Greens will also vote in favor of this law in the Bundestag, parliamentary group member Oliver Krischer told the taz. “This is an important signal for the regions and despite criticism in detail, the basic approach is correct.”

.

Coal phase-out law: if coal is lacking – economy

Mankind has been burning them for centuries. Formerly used to heat. Today mainly to generate electricity. This should end in Germany by 2038. And then?

In the end it was getting scarce. Because no clear majority was visible in the vote on the coal phase-out in the Bundestag, counting was done with a bump. The result: Germany will step out of coal-fired power generation by 2038 – with 314 to 237 votes. Federal Minister of Economics Peter Altmaier (CDU) calls it “the most important energy policy decision in recent years”.

Why should coal power generation end?

Coal-fired power plants are the plants with the largest CO₂ emissions in Germany. The entire energy industry was recently responsible for 31 percent of all greenhouse gas emissions in Germany, according to the Federal Environment Agency. Coal kilns have a particularly big impact here: they emit significantly more CO₂ per kilowatt hour than gas power plants.

In addition, the mining of brown coal interferes massively with the landscape. For example, RWE is relocating five other villages in the Rhineland so that the Garzweiler opencast mine can progress. The group had also long insisted on cutting down the Hambacher Forest near Cologne. After violent protests from environmentalists, the forest should now remain: According to the exit compromise, RWE must limit the Hambach open-cast mine.

Why is the exit so controversial?

On the one hand, it is not going fast enough for environmentalists. The law comes too late and is too expensive, criticizes Sascha Müller-Kraenner, managing director of Deutsche Umwelthilfe. He calls for improvements after the next federal election; Germany should get out of coal by 2030 at the latest.

On the other hand, a good 20,000 people have recently worked in lignite mines and power plants, according to the statistics of the coal industry – a good half of them in eastern Germany. In addition, there are just under 5000 employees in the local hard coal industry.

What are the coal companies for? Got 4.35 billion euros in compensation?

Because of the exit data now set, corporations such as RWE have said that they have to spend more money on the renaturation of the open-cast mines, on the conversions of the plants and on staff cuts. The state wants to reimburse these costs; in return, the companies undertake not to sue the law. The Federal Ministry of Economics has long negotiated with them about the exact amounts.

The fact that the ministry has not disclosed how the compensation is calculated is also causing criticism within the coalition. SPD parliamentary group deputy Matthias Miersch announced that his party would “carefully examine the adequacy of the compensation”. In particular, you want to take a closer look at a study by auditors that the ministry commissioned. In it, the auditors should check whether Lausitzer Energie-AG (Leag) is now ceasing its lignite business at all earlier – or whether it would have done so without the billions. On Thursday, the Ministry of Economic Affairs published a “plausibility check” of Leag’s planning, in which there are no concrete statements. According to the Freiburg Oeko-Institut, the compensation could be set too high up to two billion euros. The “plausibility check” of the ministry assumes even lower coal requirements for the remaining term than the Öko-Institut.

The legislative package also provides subsidies for hard coal mines that are converted to gas or biomass.

40 billion euros

This is how much money the regions affected by the end of coal should receive to get fit for the future. For example, they will flow into transport infrastructure, new jobs, research and education. A new funding program called “Zukunft Revier” is intended to support projects in becoming “model regions for greenhouse gas-neutral, resource-efficient and sustainable development”. 43 percent of the money goes to the Lausitzer Revier, the Rheinische Revier gets 37 percent, 20 percent the Mitteldeutsche Revier.

Which kiln should go when from the network?

The lignite phaseout follows two principles: it begins much earlier in the Rhineland than in the east – and smaller, old meilers go offline in front of more modern large power plants. By contrast, the state wants to determine which hard coal kilns will be shut down and when by tender: operators should receive compensation by 2026 if they shut down power plants. From 2027 onwards, the federal government no longer wants to pay compensation for hard coal mines.

Does the government follow the recommendations of the coal commission?

Because so many interests collide with coal, the federal government set up a commission made up of business and trade unions, environmentalists, science and politics. This agreed on a final report in early 2019. Some of the members are disappointed with how the government has now implemented the compromise.

On the one hand, it disturbs the fact that only a few smaller blocks should go offline in the 2020s. The Commission had recommended that coal-fired power plant capacity should decrease steadily. “I know that we got fans in the mid-twenties,” said Chancellor Angela Merkel (CDU). In return, according to the plan, more hard coal mines should go off the grid in these years.

Secondly, the Commission wanted no other coal-fired power plants to start operating in this country. Nevertheless, a large, new hard coal kiln went online in Datteln in Westphalia at the end of May. The former head of the coal commission, Barbara Praetorius, spoke of a “completely wrong signal”. The federal and state governments, on the other hand, argue that the operator Uniper has all the necessary permits and is entitled to operate the power plant. To ban this would have cost the state around one and a half billion euros in compensation. After all, Uniper has announced that it will shut down some of the older boilers as compensation. However, a modern and efficient power plant like Datteln 4 tends to be better utilized than older ones.

How will Germany generate electricity in the future?

Coal-fired power plants still contributed about 28 percent to the local electricity mix in 2019, according to the Energy Balances Working Group. The proportion has recently decreased significantly. On the one hand, this is due to the fact that Germany is producing more and more green electricity – this is primarily fed into the grid. On the other hand, CO₂ emission rights have become more expensive in the EU; this is at the expense of the coal kiln.

Of course, Germany now also needs an “entry plan”, says Michael Vassiliadis, head of the mining, chemical and energy union. The expansion of renewable energies has recently stalled in Germany. Germany needs grids that transport wind power from the north to the south, as well as storage facilities for times with little wind and sun. But in many places there is resistance to wind farms or routes.

The phase-out law therefore stipulates that Germany checks again and again whether the supply is secure. If electricity prices rise due to the coal phase-out, the federal government has announced relief.

.

Bundestag decides to phase out coal in Germany

DThe Bundestag decided on Friday to phase out coal in Germany by 2038 at the latest. The parliament also passed a law that provides aid of 40 billion euros for the coal countries. After the Bundestag on Friday afternoon, the Federal Council also approved the law on coal exits.

314 deputies voted for the federal government law, 237 voted against. The vote took place by “mutton jump”. The Bundestag Presidium previously did not agree whether there was a majority in favor of the bill in the previous normal vote, said session leader Wolfgang Kubicki (FDP).

The structural aids are intended to help in the coal regions in North Rhine-Westphalia, Saxony-Anhalt, Saxony and Brandenburg with the restructuring of the economy and with the expansion of the infrastructure. Coal-fired power plant operators should receive billions in compensation for the premature shutdown of their plants.

A year and a half ago, a commission set up by the federal government had proposed to phase out coal by 2038 at the latest. Coal-fired power plants are gradually being taken off the grid anyway, but climate targets require a faster exit. Actually, the end of coal power generation would only have been in the late 1940s.

A historic “generation project”

Federal Minister of Economics Peter Altmaier (CDU) described the coal phase-out as a historic “generation project”. Altmaier said in the Bundestag that coal-based electricity generation will be legally secure, economically reasonable and socially acceptable by 2038 at the latest. “With this decision, the fossil age in Germany comes to an irrevocable end.”

The Greens and the Left, on the other hand, received sharp criticism. Green leader Annalena Baerbock said that the exit is far too late. The Federal Government had deviated from the coal commission concept at crucial points. For reasons of climate protection, an exit is possible and necessary until 2030. The coalition’s project was “forgotten about the future”. The left-wing energy politician Lorenz Gösta Beutin spoke of a “black day” for the climate.

Greenpeace activists climbed onto the roof of the Reichstag building in protest against the federal government’s planned coal phaseout law. Under the lettering “The German People” they put up a large banner with the inscription “A future without coal power”. The coal phase-out could and should go faster. Greenpeace managing director Martin Kaiser called the laws on the coal phase-out a “historical mistake”.

In 2026, 2029 and 2032, the Federal Government wants to review the consequences of the coal phase-out on security of supply and the development of electricity prices. It is also to be examined whether the reduction in coal-based electricity generation can be brought forward and whether the coal phase-out can take place by 2035.

.