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Lignite supports power supply transformation

“We want to work together with people from the world of politics, science and trade unions to ensure that the general conditions allow domestic lignite to continue to play its part in the supply reliability and affordability of electricity within the scope of the planned conversion of the German power supply,” explains Chairman of the Board of the German Lignite Industry Association (DEBRIV), Matthias Hartung, at this year’s lignite convention in Potsdam/Germany. According to Hartung, lignite has a solid social and political foundation in the mining states of North Rhine-Westphalia, Saxony, Saxony-Anhalt and Brandenburg. Lignite is valued as a source of employment and recognised as an important economic factor. The significance of lignite in terms of energy and structural policymaking in Germany and in the affected states needs to be taken into account during the decision-making processes surrounding energy policy. Here, coal can and must make a contribution to national and European climate protection targets. With this in mind, Hartung rejected one-sided demands for the rapid phase-out of coal.

From the point of view of the German lignite industry, the transformation of the German power network is a long-term process that will take several decades. As a result of the nuclear energy phase-out and despite the development of renewable energies, by 2025 around 55 to 60 % and by 2035 another 40 to 45 % of electricity consumption will have to be provided by other energy sources. Lignite- and coal-based power station capacities, as well as those using natural gas are just as indispensable for closing this gap in the power supply as they are in compensating for production fluctuations in wind and photovoltaic plants caused by the weather and the time of day. Supply reliability and network stability will therefore remain in the hands of conventional power station complexes for a long time to come. It is important to note that lignite’s contribution will drop by some 15 % to around 140 TWh per year by 2023 within the context of the agreed emergency pool of reserved power. This drop will be beneficial in terms of Germany’s carbon footprint. As of 1990, the German lignite industry reduced its CO2 emissions by a total of 50 %, making one of the most significant individual contributions. In order to make the energy transition a success, renewable energies and conventional power stations must come together on a long-term basis, whereby the market shares gradually move towards renewable energies. To make this sustainable in the long term, there must be a market system that offers the various energy sources economical prospects for the future. Today’s low wholesale prices show that the current system is being stretched to its limits.

Participants at this year’s lignite convention called for a peaceful debate on energy and the environment. In mid-May, acts of violence in the Lausitz mining region revealed a new level of criminal energy under the guise of climate protection. Individual open-pit mines and power stations also saw an increase in attacks on employees as well as material damage caused by those opposed to lignite. Participants at the lignite convention believed that there can be no political or legal justification for self-proclaimed climate protection activists staging sit-ins with the objective of actively interfering with the German power supply system. (DEBRIV/Si.)