German energy minister denies plan to shut down coal power plants

German Energy and Economic Affairs Minister Sigmar Gabriel has responded to speculation regarding Germany’s coal industry, saying that there are no plans to specifically target the sector for plant closures.

A leaked paper from the ministry last week indicated that the government plans to impose carbon dioxide (CO2) reductions on energy providers.

“I will not make a proposal to shut down coal-fired power plants“, Gabriel said in Berlin on Monday, dismissing claims that coal plants would be forcefully shut down, suffering a fate similar to that of the country’s nuclear power fleet.
Sigmar Gabriel and Angela Merkel
Because Germany’s CO2 emissions are currently at 341 million tonnes per year, cutting 22 million tonnes would not require any forced closings of coal-fired power plants, Gabriel explained.

The leaked document said the amount of carbon to be cut would be equally distributed among all power plants, but in practical terms this means around eight lignite- and hard coal-burning plants would have to be shut down completely.

The Merkel government is emphasizing that coal plants would bear about a third of the planned emission cuts.

Gabriel plans to present a bill setting out CO2 reduction targets in cabinet on 3 December. He and representatives of Germany’s six biggest utilities met in Berlin on Monday.

“Closing power generation parks directly damages the competitiveness of German industry, without climate drawing a benefit,” BDI, the Berlin-based industry group that represents Germany’s 100,000 biggest companies, said in a statement today.

BDI said it had commissioned a study showing that the closed plants’ output would simply be compensated with imports from mostly coal-fired power stations in neighbouring countries.

“Foreign, often less efficient coal-to-power plants would take on 95 per cent of the production lost from the switched-off German plants,” BDI Managing Director Markus Kerber said.

The study, carried out by Hamburg’s economic institute, said that switching off 10 GW of installed coal power generation capacity could cost 24,000 jobs by 2020 in brown coal mining and power production alone. A further 50,000 jobs could be lost because energy-reliant manufacturers would be hit by rising electricity prices due to the closures.

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