July 3, 2020 / 10:52 AM / a month ago

German parliament passes coal exit bill

BERLIN (Reuters) - Germany’s Bundestag, the lower house of parliament, on Friday passed a bill on the country’s exit from coal as a power source to meet climate targets.

FILE PHOTO: Steam rises from the cooling towers of the lignite power plant complex of German energy supplier and utility RWE in Neurath, north-west of Cologne, Germany, February 5, 2020. REUTERS/Wolfgang Rattay/File Photo

The bill involves over 50 billion euros (45.07 billion pounds) for mining and power plant operators, affected regions and employees to cushion the impact of the transformation from coal to renewables.

Economy minister Peter Altmaier praised the deal, calling it a defining moment in German history.

“This is an irrevocable beginning of the end of the fossil fuels age,” he said in parliament.

“It is a project for generations,” he added.

Germany will abandon nuclear energy by 2022 and coal by 2038 at the latest, and will simultaneously aim for 55% cuts in greenhouses gas emissions by 2030 over 1990 levels.

Utility groups, labour unions and energy consumers welcomed the agreement as it allows them time and money to cope with the transition, but green groups said the time schedule was too slow and the deal too costly for taxpayers.

The World Wildlife Fund’s German arm criticised the compensation payments to operators that it said would have had to phase out their plants anyway and now have additional money.

“The law does not fit in with the reality of the energy market, and not at all with the current climate-political challenges,” head of nature protection Christoph Heinrich said.

Costs of generating power from renewable sources have become increasingly competitive, and cheap gas is pushing coal out of the fuel mix in a trend that has been enhanced by the political will to drive up the cost of carbon emission allowances.

In the first half of 2020, renewables accounted for over 50% of German power production.

Reporting by Markus Wacket and Vera Eckert, editing by David Evans

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