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Hopes rise for early German coal exit as Merkel plans law

The end of coal and lignite by 2038 recommended by a key commission is likely to result in a faster expansion of renewables

Chancellor Angela Merkel has announced her government will present legislation by May for a German exit from coal and lignite, after a key commission set up by the government last weekend had recommended to phase out fossil power generation by 2038.

The Chancellor after meeting the premiers of four states to be affected by the closure of lignite mines – most of them in structurally weak Eastern Germany – told local media late Thursday the government will consider the commission’s recommendations very carefully.

The broad consensus reached in the commission comprised of politicians, environmentalists and labour representatives shows a “responsibility for society as a whole,” Merkel was quoted as saying by the ARD public broadcaster. Her comments are interpreted by many German commentators as an inclination to closely follow the stipulations of the commission.

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The long-awaited compromise is likely to result in an acceleration of the renewables expansion in Europe’s biggest economy as some 40GW of coal and lignite capacity will need to be switched off in the coming 19 years.

The commission (dubbed the ‘coal commission’) has recommended the closure of a first 12.5GW of coal and lignite already by 2022, the same year by which Germany is also phasing out nuclear power. By 2030, about 25.6GW of coal and lignite are recommended to go off the grid.

According to the suggestions of the coal commission, the government in 2032 will need to check whether the final coal exit can be moved forward to an earlier switch-off date in 2035.

That clause has led several environmental and renewables groups to say they expect an earlier end date for coal and lignite.

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