Germany Saying Goodbye to Coal

Germany will shut down all 84 of its coal-fired power plants over the next 19 years (as of 2038) to meet its international commitments in the fight against climate change, the government’s Commission on Growth, Structural Change and Employment reported.

The government convened the commission last summer to develop a broad social consensus around structural changes to energy and climate policy in Germany.

Coal plants account for 40% of Germany’s electricity, itself a reduction from recent years.

The plan includes $45 billion in spending to mitigate the pain in coal regions.

The decision to cease coal production follows an earlier move by the German government to shut down all of its nuclear power plants by 2022 in the wake of Japan’s Fukushima disaster in 2011. Twelve of the country’s 19 nuclear plants have been shuttered so far.

 The plan to eliminate coal-burning plants as well as nuclear means that Germany will be counting on renewable energy to provide 65% to 80% of the country’s power by 2040. Last year, renewables overtook coal as the leading source and now account for 41% of the country’s electricity.

There are still 20,000 jobs directly dependent on the coal industry and 40,000 indirectly tied to it.

The panel that made the recommendation included leaders in the federal and state governments along with top industry and union representatives, scientists and environmentalists.

Included in the recommendations is that the phase-out target be reviewed every three years. Also, the final deadline could be moved forward by three years to 2035.

The initial targets are considerable, calling for a quarter of the country’s coal-burning plants with a capacity of 12.5 gigawatts to be shut down by 2022. That means about 24 plants will be shut within the first three years. By 2030, Germany should have about eight coal-burning plants remaining, producing 17 gigawatts of electricity, the commission said.

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