Five questions surrounding Germany’s coal phase-out plan

(EurActiv, 26 Feb 2019) Many in Germany want to have their cake and eat it by scrapping nuclear power and avoiding coal at the same time. Pieter Cleppe looks at some of the questions raised by Germany’s decision.

Pieter Cleppe is head of Brussels office at Open Europe, a euro-critical think-tank focused on Britain’s new relationship with the EU and the rest of the world after Brexit.

After a long debate, Germany’s so-called “Coal Commission”, which includes representatives from political, industry, and environmental groups, has recommended the country end its use of coal power by 2038. This still needs to be approved by four German states that will be affected, as well as by the federal government, though Chancellor Angela Merkel has already voiced support.

With questions still surrounding the whole endeavor, here’s an overview of the five most pressing debates.

  1. What will it cost?

The Coal Commission suggests spending at least €40 billion to aid coal-mining states affected by the phase-out, and at least €2 billion per year to limit increases in consumer power bills – already the highest in Europe. 5,000 government jobs would be relocated to the affected regions, carrying costs in itself.

The Association of German Chambers of Industry and Commerce (DIHK) estimates the real cost at closer to €170 billion, taking into account the effect on energy prices, possible damages, and the cost of extra investment into alternative energy sources such as natural gas plants. It warns price increases must be avoided, as German companies already face the highest power bills in the European Union.

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EurActiv, 26 Feb 2019: Five questions surrounding Germany’s coal phase-out plan