Coal Phase-Out in Germany

Germany’s energy system transformation – the so-called “Energiewende” – is the prime political undertaking for decarbonising the nation’s energy mix. Integrating mobility, power generation, heating, and industrial necessities, the Energiewende depends on principles of energy efficiency, largescale deployment of renewable energies, and sector-coupling. Its objectives are guaranteeing security of supply, affordability, ecological compatibility, and social acceptance of the transformation. 

Two energy carriers stand out in managing Germany’s energy transformation: hard coal and lignite. Making up about 30% of Germany’s electricity mix in 2021, coal has had a defining impact not only on the German economy, but on society and politics as well. With lignite being one of the most polluting energy carriers in the system, decarbonising Germany by 2045 remains a challenge ahead. Thus, coal-fired plants are to be decommissioned ideally by 2030. With an impact this far-reaching on a nation, phasing out coal is both challenge and opportunity at once. 

The bilateral Energy Partnerships and -dialogues have created three videos looking into the different aspects of the coal phase-out.

In Germany, the idea of decarbonising the energy mix has been accompanied by a demand and willingness for a just transition process. “Structural change” describes the conversion of these modes of production in a way that opens new possibilities for employment and value chains, while serving the social acceptance of the Energiewende. A process in the making for years to come, businesses and people adapt themselves on grounds of existing infrastructure and know-how. 

Find out how cities and companies in the four coal regions in Germany cope with the coal phase out here.

Maintaining security of supply is a core objective of German energy policy, and superseding coal with direct use of renewable energy thus poses distinct challenges. Electricity is expected to be 100% generated from renewable energies ideally by 2035. Today, up about 50% of electricity stems from renewables. However, because of Germany’s geography, large potentials for renewable energies are found in the north, and only few in the south. Investments in high voltage transmission lines are necessary to guarantee security of supply. Nonetheless, already today, Schleswig-Holstein, the country’s northernmost state, is almost able to sustain its’ own electricity demand through renewables alone.

See how Germany maintains secure grids without coal and why renewables meet great expectations here.

The Energiewende concerns thousands of stakeholders from the public and private spheres of German society. How to reach compromise between diverging and conflicting interests? With the case of phasing out coal, a distinct feature of German policymaking comes to the fore: consociational democracy. Aiming at engaging relevant stakeholders, the Coal Commission gathered citizens, entrepreneurs, scientists, and politicians to reach agreement on how to realise structural change in the affected regions. Nonetheless, a prerequisite remains the readiness of everyone to concess to others. 

Experience the how Germany’s Coal Commission engaged differing expectations and how working together has led to decisive actions here.