Last week, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz announced that Germany was reopening five power plants that burn lignite, a low-rank coal.
Last week, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz announced that Germany was reopening five power plants that burn lignite, a low-rank coal. Germany’s return to lignite demonstrates how crucial the electricity situation has become across EU. People, businesses and governments are doing whatever they have to do to get the electricity they need.
RWE is dismantling the Keyenberg wind project in the western part of the country to make more room for the expansion of the Garzweiler mine. Lignite from Garzweiler fuels the Neurath C power plant, which is one of the power plants being brought back online. A spokesperson for RWE told the media: “We realize this comes across as paradoxical.”
Burning lignite contradicts Germany’s climate goals. Under the country’s much-vaunted Energiewende (German for “energy turnaround”) Germany has pledged to slash its total greenhouse gas emissions by 95% by 2050. The cost of that pledge could total more than $500 billion by 2025 — and that figure only accounts for the investment needed to decarbonize the electricity sector. The result of all that spending is that residents of Germany are now paying some of the highest electricity prices in Europe.
Global coal demand has been soaring for months. European electric utilities are scrambling to buy as much coal as they can to replace Russian natural gas. The Newcastle benchmark price for thermal coal going into the Asian market has been at, or near, $400 per ton for several months in a row. That’s an eight-fold increase over the levels seen in early 2020. And in July, the International Energy Agency said that global coal use will hit an all-time high this year.
While announcing the reopening of the lignite plants, Scholz claimed that the move is “a time-limited but necessary emergency measure.” He added that Germany will “continue to stand firmly by our climate targets.” Scholz also said, “The Russian aggression and its consequences mustn’t lead to a worldwide renaissance of coal…We will make clear offers so that developing and emerging countries also can embark resolutely on the path toward a climate-neutral energy sector.”