The extensive withdrawal from electricity generation using lignite in Germany is possible without the need for any compulsory redundancies. This was the assertion made by the Institute for Applied Ecology after carrying out an analysis on behalf of the Federal Environment Agency, which was subsequently quoted in the media. The German Lignite Industry Association (DEBRIV), Bergheim/Germany, has made a clear statement on this:
“This analysis is arbitrarily based on incorrect assumptions, e. g., regarding HR development in energy companies. Above all, however, by only considering employees in the lignite industry, it fails to take into account the importance of the industrial-political and national economic dimension of a rapid phase-out of coal,” reports Helmar Rendez, Chairman of the DEBRIV. “A subject of huge societal relevance has been deliberately played down here. By distancing itself from reality, the study by the Institute for Applied Ecology cannot be used as a sound basis for discussing the future of mining districts.”
The significance of the lignite industry has been systematically underestimated by the authors of the study; in the Rhineland as the guarantee of competitive industrial electricity prices, in the Central German mining district for its links with the chemical industry and in Lusatia as the central industrial anchor for the entire region’s economy. From the point of view of the DEBRIV Chairman, the effects of a premature phase-out of coal on other companies and areas of the economy have not, therefore, been considered to the extent necessary in the analysis by the Institute for Applied Ecology.
The downscaling of coal capacities as called for in the analysis by the Institute for Applied Ecology would in fact result in a considerable increase in the price of electricity. The effects this would have on energy- and labour-intensive industries would be serious. Tens of thousands of people are employed by suppliers and partner companies, with hundreds of thousands in the nationwide energy-intensive industry. Take North Rhine-Westphalia, e. g.: A recent study by the chambers of industry and commerce in Aachen, Cologne and the Central Rhine Region found that 93,000 people are employed in energy-intensive production companies throughout the entire economic area of the largest German state. And in North Rhine-Westphalia, up to two further jobs can depend on each of these positions.
Every year, companies in the German lignite industry award contracts amounting to several billions of euros to other companies for the maintenance and modernisation of their mining operations and power stations and the associated high environmental standards. Without these contracts, many jobs at partner companies and suppliers would be under serious threat.
Another inaccurate assumption by the Institute for Applied Ecology is that there will be a drop in recruitment in the coming year. “That is simply not business practice,” clarifies Rendez. “Continuous training and the transfer of knowledge to young employees is essential for every commercial enterprise. The same obviously applies to the lignite industry. A drop in recruitment in the region would also mean the loss of hundreds of traineeships for qualified professions. That would severely impede the positive structural development in the regions and force young people to move away.” (DEBRIV/Si.)