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Coal bears the brunt of recommendations from the Commission for Growth, Structural Change and Employment

In its final report, the commission failed to mention a single word on coal’s contribution to reducing CO2 emissions, even though coal has been the main contributor to emission reductions in recent decades. By the end of 2018, it had cut its use of fuel for electricity generation by half in comparison with 1990.

The commission has nevertheless recommended reducing the output of coal-fired power stations by 7.7 GW to around 15 GW by 2022. This recommendation is not only completely unrealistic, but shows how the representatives of regions, economy, unions and environmental associations have united against coal as an energy source, which is not represented on the commission. They are also violating the objectives of climate policy, economic affairs and reliability of supply.

Coal-fired power stations are the existing, economical bridge solution for the energy transition. They balance out the fluctuating supply of renewable energy sources. Whether the necessary capacity of open gas turbines will be available by 2022 is highly uncertain. What is certain, however, is that this will incur additional costs that could definitely be avoided. Open gas turbines have a lower efficiency than coal-fired power stations – from a climate policy perspective, this measure is counterproductive. It is making the energy transition more expensive and deeming it necessary to reduce the burden of these costs on the economy. Economic representatives should never have allowed these senseless costs to be incurred in the first place.

As world export champion, Germany cannot cut itself off from the rest of the world when it comes to energy economy. Coal is available without political risk around the world. Natural gas is not only associated with political risk but will make energy supply in Germany more expensive unnecessarily.

It its final report, the commission reduced the “coal economy” to those working in power stations and, as such, ignored those working in both trade and logistics. In the Ruhr region and the Saarland, there are many coal-fired power stations that have either been shut down over the past few years or are still in operation. These regions have long since been victims of the structural change and require urgent support. Instead, this support is flowing into regions with much lower unemployment figures than the Ruhr region. This is clearly tactical from an electoral perspective but has nothing to do with the task of the commission.

Nor can this be justified by the fact that the commission was very late to “discover” coal. In its interim report on possible measures for social and structural political development in the lignite regions, dated 25th October 2018, the commission admitted that its work had only previously focussed on the structural change in the lignite mining areas. It still only considered lignite mining areas, however, when attempting to avoid structural interruptions. Coal remained an “if necessary” option in the interim report, while the final report contained a few suggested projects on structural development in the Saarland. (VDKi/Si.)