Germany Said it Will Close all 84 of its Coal-Fired Power Plants

In the next 15-18 years, Europe's biggest coal consumer will phase out the energy source completely


(T.W. van Urk /

Germany announced that it will end its reliance on using coal-fired power plants by 2038. This will go along way towards Europe's meeting the Paris Climate Change targets.

The German Coal Exit Commission made up of 28-members from industry, government and NGOs have been working since last summer to come up with a timetable for ending the country's use of coal and have agreed to a target date of 2038 or possibly earlier. A review in 2032 will determine if the date can be moved forward to 2035.

Germany is the last stronghold of coal use in Europe with almost 40 percent of the country's power being generated with this heavily polluting fossil fuel. Compared to 4 percent in the UK, Germany has a long way to go.

Hans Joachim Schellnhuber, a member of the commission and an adviser to the German chancellor, Angela Merkel, told The Guardian: “This is an important step on the road to the post-fossil age – a step that also opens up new perspectives for the affected regions through innovation-driven structural change.”

The coal exit commission unanimously adopted a final report (CLEW factsheet) that outlines how the coal phase-out will work to reduce emissions that are in line with the climate targets but will still provide stable supply and affordable prices.

In the first phase, Germany will switch off 12.5 gigawatts of coal capacity by 2022 and 25 GW by 2030.

Stefanie Langkamp, a coal expert at the Climate Alliance Germany network, told the Guardian, “It is good that the long-overdue entry into the coal phase out is now beginning and that new perspectives are being developed in the regions. Measured against the climate crisis, however, the coal phase out should have been much more ambitious.”

Some environmental groups like Greenpeace have supported an end date of 2030, but most environmental groups support a 2035 cut-off according to The Guardian. A poll conducted by German broadcaster ZDF showed that 73 percent of Germans want a quick exit from coal.

Plant closures are set to take place gradually, and the impacted regions will receive 40 billion euros in payments from the federal government to lessen the impact from the transition.

Natural Gas is slated to become Germany's backup power in place of coal while the country increases the share of renewables in the electrical supply from 38 percent today to 65 percent in 2030.

The switchover from coal to natural gas is an improvement, but a switch to more renewables like solar energy or wind power would be even better. Still, this is a giant step in the right direction.

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