Germany said it will amend the country’s Renewable Energies Act (EEG) to accelerate the build-up of renewables in accordance with a 65% renewable power target by 2030, as the federal government presented a schedule to shutter some 16GW of lignite generation capacity by 2038.
The government also said it would improve support for combined cycle power plants, and has plans for the construction of two new gas power stations, as well as for setting up centres for hydrogen research.
No information was given on how the renewables expansion is supposed to be sped up. Germany’s wind power expansion has collapsed last year and the government so far has not presented measures that could effectively revive it.
Reiner Priggen, chairman of the renewable energy federation of North-Rhine Westphalia, a major lignite mining state, said the coal exit plan doesn't live up to stipulations made in the so-called coal exit commission that last year had presented a consensus to end coal by 2038.
"We had agreed in the commission that the exit from coal must be linked to a strong expansion of renewable energies. But so far federal and state governments above all have passed or planned limits to wind power," Priggen said.
"This blockade policy against the Energiewende must be abandoned for good!"
Germany will miss its 2030 target to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 55% from 1990 levels unless it embarks on a more ambitious coal exit plan, Germany's renewable energy federation BEE said, and demanded to re-negotiate the compromise.
To reach the 65% renewable power target by 2030, a reliable expansion path for onshore and offshore wind, solar, bio energy, hydro and geothermal must be laid down, the federation said.
Berlin presented the schedule after tense negotiations with four coal and lignite mining states (Brandenburg, North-Rhine Westphalia, Saxony and Saxony-Anhalt), which have been promised €14bn ($15.6bn) in aid from the federal government to smooth out the fallout of the coal exit.
“A break-through has been achieved during the talks yesterday in the Chancellery. The closure path is set and the framework for compensation payments stands,” economics and energy minister Peter Altmaier said.
“We will end the age of coal generation in a planable and economically sound manner.”
Further measures for lignite regions of up to €26bn by 2038 are also planned, and Germany said it wants to receive funds from the EU under the ‘just transition mechanism’ that was announced this week but is meant for poorer regions of the economic bloc.
Workers of closed lignite plants and mines are to receive settlement payments until 2043, and the government has promised billions in compensation payments to fossil utilities such as RWE or Uniper - in part for closing down coal or lignite plants that have already been amortised for years.
RWE said Berlin has promised it €2.6bn in compensation payments over a 15-year period. But the utility claims it will have €3.5bn in financial losses deriving from the coal exit. Also, the company said more than 3,000 jobs will vanish in the short run, and a total of about 6.000 by 2030. RWE said that by 2038, it will have shuttered 8.7GW in fossil generation capacity.
"RWE went to the limits of what is possible. We will need to take significantly more generation capacity off the grid in significantly less time than expected," chief executive Rolf Martin Schmitz lamented.
As a result of the plant closures, the embattled Hambach Forest will remain intact. Climate activists and the police last year had engaged in violent clashes around the forest, which utility RWE wanted to clear to widen its lignite mining operations.
A first around 2.8GW of capacity is slated to be shuttered by 2022, followed by another 5.7GW by 2030.
The government in 2026 and 2029 will check whether the final coal and lignite exit date can be moved forward to 2035.
The last about 7.6GW in capacity are slated to be closed by either 2038 or 2035.
The government will present a law on the coal exit schedule still this month, and expects the legislation to be passed during the first half of 2020.
UPDATED to add comment by RWE, BEE