It was a long tug of war. Now the Bundestag is voting on two laws that are more or less the two sides of the same coin: the coal phase-out law and that on aid for structural change.
By Angela Ulrich, ARD Capital Studio
Peter Altmaier smiles all over his face – a head smaller, Svenja Schulze next to him, as well. “You are experiencing a good-humored minister for the environment and a good-humored minister of economy and energy”, because what will happen in the Bundestag today, says Altmaier, is historical: “After the great consensus that we have found when we exit nuclear energy, we have an opportunity to complete the coal phase out by consensus. “
Schulze speaks of a triad: “We now have security that we will get out and how we will get out. Security for the regions that will be helped and that something new will happen that renewable energies will be promoted.”
40 billion euros in structural aid
All German lignite and hard coal power plants are to be shut down step by step. By 2038 at the latest. At the same time, the regions that suffer the most – Lusatia, Central Germany and the Rhenish region – will receive 40 billion euros in structural aid. Money for railway and road construction, new companies, jobs with authorities.
This money is important and well invested, says Patrick Graichen of the Agora Energiewende think tank, but: “What is completely unnecessary is that compensation is now being paid to the coal-fired power plant operators. The power plants that are still in operation are in the death zone and don’t make any money at all, that shouldn’t have been. “
Greenpeace climate expert Martin Kaiser even says: “With the coal phase-out law as it is now, coal is kept alive for several years instead of getting it out of the market.”
Compensation instead of lawsuits
Because coal electricity is becoming increasingly unprofitable. The federal government has nevertheless decided to compensate the companies in order to prevent possible lawsuits. Around 4.3 billion euros will go primarily to the RWE and LEAG groups. Legal certainty – for far too much money, says Green Group Vice-President Oliver Krischer: “To be honest, I find it irresponsible that this coal phase-out law is increasingly being used as a money printing machine for coal companies.”
Another point of criticism: In the exit law, the previously unanimous recommendation of the coal commission was watered down with regard to the exit path. Chancellor Angela Merkel rejects this: “We did not say that we would implement the recommendations of the coal commission one-to-one. We said: We are following the style. That there may also be disappointment among the members that they are even more I expected that. Overall, this is a very, very important step that we are taking now. “
“Investments are now moving towards renewables”
A step that others must follow: By 2030, at least 65 percent of electricity in Germany should come from renewable energy. Despite agreements on solar and wind distance regulations, there is still a long way to go. Especially since the EU as a whole wants to become completely climate-neutral by 2050, i.e. wants to tighten its climate targets. Then Germany would have to add more.
For Patrick Graichen from Agora Energiewende, coal-fired power plants are already something like the dinosaurs of energy production: “If we decide on a higher climate protection target in Europe, then of course this also means that European emissions trading will be tightened again. The CO2 prices on the market will then automatically ensure that coal-fired power plants go out of the market. And in this respect they are now rearguard battles. But it is clear to everyone involved that the investments are now going towards renewables. “
The Greens do not want to agree to the coal phase-out law today, but they want structural aid for the regions. At noon the laws go to the Federal Council – but cannot be stopped by the critics there. After a long tug of war and many delays, the pace is now picking up speed.