Germany plans to phase out coal

December 7, 2012

Germany will stop mining hard coal in 2017, R. Andreas Kraemer, director of the Ecologic Institute in Germany explained to American Council on Germany fellows in Berlin this week.

Kelsey Dayton

The country, whose energy plan,  “Energiewende,” calls for 80 percent of its energy to come from renewables by 2050, has little hard coal left to mine, Kraemer said. The bulk of its coal mining is lignite coal which takes enormous investment in mining infrastructure. To turn off those plants would call for exappropiation. Those mines will continue to support Germany as it transitions away from nuclear power — closing its last plant by 2022 — and into a system that relies more and more on renewable energy.

International demand for coal is on the rise, due in part to slacking coal demand in the U.S. and a collapse of prices of carbon credits in the European Union. Yet Germany is relying less on coal, according to a report from the German Resource Agency. “The message is, ‘We don’t buy coal,’” Kraemer said.

Germany’s use of brown coal (or lignite) still continues, however, with plans for more plants. It’s still considered an economically-viable piece of the country’s energy portfolio, according to Kraemer.

As Germany moves away from fossil fuels, coal will eventually be phased out. In 2050, only 20 percent of the country’s energy will come from nonrenewable resources, which will likely include lignite.

Energiewende calls for the country to use only 20 percent fossil fuels, which Kraemer calls “timid,” but was set because no one is sure if the grid can be restarted on renewables alone if it’s shut down by a natural disaster or other unexpected disaster. That is something that will eventually be explored, either through a planned test, or a disaster. If the grid can be restarted on renewables, the country can explore moving completely away from fossil fuels.

“Only then can we move to 100 percent renewables,” he said.

Note: The American Council on Germany fellowship exposes participants to a variety of experts on energy and climate change policy in Germany. We have met with active and retired members of various political parties, lobbyists and scientists among others.

Banner photo by André Zehetbauer.

— “Peaks to Plains” is a blog focusing on Wyoming’s outdoors and communities. Kelsey Dayton is a freelance writer based in Lander. She has been a journalist in Wyoming for seven years, reporting for the Jackson Hole News & Guide, Casper Star-Tribune and the Gillette News-Record. Contact Kelsey at kelsey.dayton@gmail.com.

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Kelsey Dayton

Kelsey Dayton is a freelancer and the editor of Outdoors Unlimited, the magazine of the Outdoor Writers Association of America. She has worked as a reporter for the Gillette News-Record, Jackson Hole News&Guide...

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