Coal exit

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Coal infrastructure: The coal port and the coal power plant in Mehrum
The anti-coal power movement calls for a coal exit in Washington (2009)

A coal phase-out is the political decision not to mine or use coal any more. Reasons for the coal phase-out, as with the oil phase-out , are in particular environmental protection , climate protection and health protection (avoidance of damage to health due to air pollutants that are released during the burning of coal).

Coal is currently used in large quantities to generate electrical energy in coal-fired power stations , for heating, in the chemical industry , steel industry and other industries. The coal industry also includes the necessary infrastructure for extraction in open-cast mining or mines and for transport (e.g. coal ports, coal railways , conveyor belts, etc.). The phase-out of coal is not only associated with an end to coal- fired power generation , but to a certain extent also with a relative "end" or at least a strong reduction in the material use of coal (for example, in the form of an exit from coking for iron and steel production ) .

To enable the objectives in Paris in 2015 adopted climate protection agreement to meet that man-made global warming to well below 2 ° C limit, a coal phase-out by about 2,030 is needed worldwide. As of 2015, coal accounted for 40.7 percent of the global electricity mix.


The use of coal is accompanied by massive negative external effects that are not reflected in your generation costs. This means that environmental costs and health costs are generally paid by the general public and not by electricity producers or electricity customers, i.e. external costs . These include, in particular, the greenhouse effect due to the emission of carbon dioxide and the damage to the environment and health due to the emission of pollutants such as soot, sulfur dioxide and heavy metals .

An important reason for phasing out coal is to prevent serious global warming and its consequences . Coal emits significantly more carbon dioxide (CO 2 ) per kWh than crude oil or natural gas , which makes it a disproportionately large contribution to climate change. With more than 10 billion tonnes of CO 2 emissions in 2018, coal-fired power plants cause around 30% of the total energy-related carbon dioxide emissions of around 33 billion tonnes. In addition, there are an additional 4.5 billion tons of CO 2 emissions from other forms of use of coal outside of the electricity sector.

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change recommends that the global energy supply be restructured quickly and fundamentally. For this reason, coal-based power generation must be dispensed with in the medium term. If the two-degree target is to be achieved with a probability of more than 50%, according to data from the IPCC, a maximum of between 870 and 1,240 gigatons (billion tons) of carbon dioxide may be released between 2011 and 2050 . Converted to the reserves, this means that in the global context around a third of the oil reserves, half of the natural gas reserves and more than 80% of the coal reserves must not be burned.

In the Rhenish lignite district , massive interventions in the cultural landscape are carried out to extract lignite .

When coal is burned , fine dust , sulfur dioxide , heavy metals (e.g. arsenic and mercury ) and radioactive substances (e.g. uranium and thorium ) are also emitted. In many places (especially in China ) the emitted pollutants contribute significantly to air pollution and smog . In addition, the mining of coal interferes with the landscape, changes the groundwater level and the associated negative ecological and social consequences.

For the United States, the external costs of generating electricity from coal have been determined to be between 175 and 523 billion US dollars per year. With a conservatively calculated probable mean value of 345 billion dollars, this results in costs of 17.8 US cents per kilowatt hour consumed. Some negative consequential effects such as B. Environmental effects due to the release of toxic chemicals and heavy metals into the environment, eutrophication of waters due to nitrogen input, secondary effects of acid rain and some of the effects of global warming.

In addition, companies decide to close coal-fired power plants for economic and / or other reasons.


In the medium to long term, the coal infrastructure and energy generation must be replaced in favor of non-fossil and CO 2 -free energy sources (particularly renewable energies ). In addition, economic policy instruments must be used which serve to map the “true” costs of a technology. To internalize the external costs, there are various possibilities. By taxing CO 2 emissions through a CO 2 tax or a coal levy , these costs can be priced in again. The introduction of functioning emissions trading is also possible . Such a mechanism exists in the EU with the EU emissions trading system , which is, however, heavily criticized for its ineffectiveness in terms of climate policy. The prices for emission rights achieved there hardly offer any incentives to reduce emissions. In the long term, such instruments are intended to make coal-based power generation more expensive, which in turn could lead to an exit from coal. At the same time, however, health costs and environmental follow-up costs should be avoided and the general public should be relieved.

In the short term, quick emission reductions can be achieved by switching from coal to gas power plants . B. has been shown successfully in the UK. In particular where there are already gas-fired power plants that are rarely used, such a changeover does not require a long lead time, but can be implemented within a short period of time through political decisions such as the introduction of a CO 2 price . In the UK, for example, B. in just one year to convert 15% of electricity generation from coal to gas, which can save 25 million tons of CO 2 emissions annually. This was achieved by the introduction of a CO 2 level price in the amount of 18 pounds / ton. Since gas-fired power plants do not allow for a deep decarbonization of electricity generation, care must be taken when introducing such measures that the necessary expansion of CO 2 -free technologies such as renewable energies is not slowed down. Otherwise, the climate protection benefits achieved early on from switching from coal to gas would be nullified by the emissions of new and then longer-running gas-fired power plants. In the EU, too, the generation of electricity from coal fell by around 150 TWh in 2019 as a result of the increased CO 2 price, which makes coal-fired electricity more expensive, and the expansion of renewable energies.

Another means is not to invest in coal companies or to withdraw from investments. Investment has shifted away from fossil fuels in recent years. The investment volume withdrawn from this sector (so-called divestment ) increased by a factor of 50 in 2015, according to the US consulting firm Arabella Advisors. In particular, pension funds and private investors from the USA, Great Britain and Australia have liquidated investments; they pointed to the economic risks of using carbon and the increased competitiveness of renewable energies. The insurance groups AXA and Allianz , the Norwegian state oil fund and the Rockefeller Foundation announced in the course of 2015 that they would no longer invest in companies that make money with coal. According to the website , other companies are participating in the divestment movement. 36 US cities, 13 Australian cities, the cities of Münster , Oslo , Oxford (GB), Boxtel (NL), Dunedin (NZL) and others have also announced that they no longer want to invest in coal. In May 2018, Allianz announced, among other things, that it would no longer offer individual insurance policies for coal-fired power plants and coal mining.

Countries and institutions

The use of coal is increasing significantly worldwide. The dominant factor here, with increasing importance in the period 1999–2011 compared to 1971–1999, was the increased demand for energy due to economic growth. The growth of the world population was in second place at roughly the same weight. In addition, there was a significantly increased share of coal in the energy mix in the period 1999–2011, mainly due to increasing coal consumption in poor, high-growth countries in Asia. This also includes increasing emissions due to the relocation of emission-intensive goods production to these countries.

At the G7 summit at Schloss Elmau in 2015 , the seven participating industrialized countries agreed to completely phase out fossil fuels by the end of the century. At the same time, the global coal boom that had prevailed until recently lost momentum. Since 2010, only a third of the planned coal-fired power plants have actually been built, and two-thirds of the projects have been paused or abandoned. In addition, large investors have started to withdraw from the coal business.

In April 2017, Eurelectric , the industry association of around 3,500 European energy supply companies , announced that no new coal-fired power plants would be built in the EU from 2020. All energy supply companies in the EU with the exception of Poland and Greece have joined this voluntary commitment. This agreement is intended to make it possible to achieve the climate protection goals set in the Paris Agreement . According to this, the European electricity supply is to be completely converted to CO 2 -neutral production by 2050 .

In November 2017, the Global Alliance to Power Past Coal was presented at the UN Climate Change Conference in Bonn 2017 , an international initiative that advocates the global phase-out of coal. About 20 states belonged to it when it was founded, including Canada , Great Britain , Italy , France and Mexico . The aim is to limit global warming to well below two degrees Celsius. For this, the industrialized countries would have to get out of coal by around 2030, the rest of the world by 2050.

At the end of 2018, the EU states agreed that state subsidies for coal-based power generation must be abolished by 2025 at the latest. As of April 2020, the three European countries Belgium , Austria and Sweden stopped generating electricity from coal, various other countries such as Slovakia , Portugal , Great Britain , Ireland , Italy are planning to phase out in the first half of the 2020s, Greece , the Netherlands , Finland , Hungary and Denmark also still in the 2020s.

In the first half of 2020, more coal-fired power plant capacity was decommissioned than was put into operation, so that the globally installed capacity of coal-fired power plants fell for the first time.


Belgium became the first European country to phase out coal-fired power generation in 2016.


The u. a. Smog caused by emissions from coal-fired power plants in major cities in China is a serious environmental and health problem, here using the example of Beijing on two different days in August 2005
Coal power plant in China

Coal is China's most important energy source. In 2015, the share of total Chinese energy consumption was 64.4%, although this share has been falling for years because coal consumption is growing less rapidly than other energy sources. In the electricity sector, the share of coal was still 83% in 2007; by 2015, with the growing share of renewable energies and nuclear energy , the share had fallen to 72%. In 2013, coal consumption in China also peaked in absolute terms (another statistic mentions 2014), then consumption fell (2014 by 2.9%, 2015 by 3.6%). Since this decline in coal consumption was achieved despite economic growth of 7.3 and 6.9%, respectively, thus decoupling growth from coal consumption, some researchers consider this decline to be a permanent turnaround in Chinese energy policy and an important step in the global climate protection efforts.

An important motive for reducing the share of coal in the Chinese energy balance is the considerable health consequences of burning coal. In 2013, a total of 1.6 million people died of air pollution in China , a large part of which was caused by the energy supply . Particularly after the "pollution shock" in 2013 and 2014, when hundreds of millions of Chinese suffered from heavy smog and fine dust pollution , and as a result of which air pollution was a major economic and social issue in the state, efforts were intensified and a series of measures aimed at making it more environmentally friendly Energy system initiated. Among other things, a plan was adopted to reduce particulate matter and smog pollution; In addition, a new construction ban for coal-fired power plants was issued in particularly heavily polluted regions and the introduction of the Euro 5 standard in the transport sector was set for 2015 in order to remove vehicles with particularly high levels of air pollution from the streets. In 2014, 12 out of 34 Chinese provinces wanted to reduce their coal consumption. While coal consumption increased by 3.75% in 2013, it fell by the same percentage in 2015. Nationally, the Euro 5 standard came into force in 2017. In addition, the share of coal in total energy consumption is to fall from 66.6% to below 50% by 2030, while the share of renewable energies is to be increased from just under 10% in 2012 to 25% in 2030. Achieving these goals would not only reduce pollution, but also significantly reduce greenhouse gas emissions .


In 1984 Denmark still generated 86% of its electricity from coal. On June 29, 2018, the government stipulated in the "Energy Agreement" to phase out coal-fired power generation by 2030.


In Germany, the federal government set up the Commission for Growth, Structural Change and Employment in June 2018, which was supposed to work out a plan and a date for an exit from coal. On January 26, 2019, the Coal Commission decided to phase out coal by 2038 at the latest. According to Greenpeace, the Hambach Forest can still be saved as a result.

On January 16, 2020, as part of a federal / state agreement on the coal phase-out, the basis for a coal phase-out law, which should regulate the end of coal-fired power generation by 2038, was laid. This was preceded by several draft laws for the reductions in the area of ​​hard coal and months of negotiations with lignite companies, especially RWE and LEAG . The basis of the agreement was formed by the resolutions of the Commission for Growth, Structural Change and Employment , including the preservation of the Hambach Forest , an orderly decommissioning path until 2038, a decommissioning of around 2.8 gigawatts by the end of 2022 and a further closure of 5 , 7 gigawatts of power plant capacity by the end of 2029, as well as the review of the planned closures after 2030 at the revision times 2026 and 2029 in order to end coal-fired power generation as early as 2035 if possible.

Environmental groups criticized the fact that central resolutions of the coal commission were not implemented and therefore spoke under certain circumstances. a. of a "termination of the coal compromise ". Contrary to the agreement, among other things, there is no review date in 2023, the Datteln 4 power plant may be connected to the grid and half of the lignite capacity would only be switched off between 2035 and 2038. Kai Niebert , President of the German Nature Conservation Ring, criticized the fact that the deviation from the coal commission compromise would lead to additional emissions of around 180 million tons of carbon dioxide when the lignite phase-out was carried out, and said that he felt "simply cheated" by the government. Economist Barbara Praetorius , who was one of the four chairmen of the coal commission, also said that the plan presented by the government deviated "on important points" from the commission's proposals and terminated the compromise made there. The delay of several months in the decisions was also criticized. It took the government more than a year to adopt a decision since the results were announced by the Commission for Growth, Structural Change and Employment.


Central elements of the energy transition in Germany are the nuclear phase-out and the increased use of renewable energies. The expansion of renewable energies is funded by the Renewable Energy Sources Act (EEG), which guarantees that electricity from renewable sources is preferably fed into the power grid. The aim of this law was defined:

"To enable a sustainable development of the energy supply, especially in the interests of climate and environmental protection, to reduce the economic costs of energy supply by including long-term external effects, to conserve fossil energy resources and to promote the further development of technologies for generating electricity from renewable energies . "

- Section 1 (Paragraph 1 EEG 2000)

In addition, the internalization of external costs of conventional energy generation was emphasized as an important goal of energy policy. An accompanying statement led u. a. from the fact that the social and ecological follow-up costs of conventional energy generation would not be borne by the operators, but by the general public, taxpayers and future generations, and that the EEG would in fact only compensate for these competitive disadvantages. In 2010, the Bundestag decided to increase the share of renewable energies in electricity consumption to 80% by 2050, to reduce primary energy consumption by 50% in the same period compared to 2008 and to compare greenhouse gas emissions by 80 to 95 in line with EU targets with the year 1990 to reduce. This can only be achieved with a complete phase-out of coal.

Germany will likely miss the climate protection targets it has set itself for 2020 unless the phase-out from coal-fired power generation is initiated. In 2017 it was assumed that the climate target would be missed by around 100 million tons of carbon dioxide. Coal-fired power plants cause around 80% of Germany-wide emissions in the power plant sector and are therefore a key starting point for achieving the necessary emission reduction in the short term. If the 20 oldest lignite power station units with a total output of 8.4 GW were to be shut down by the end of 2019, around 50 million tons of carbon dioxide per year could be avoided; the emissions gap could thus be roughly halved. According to a study published in November 2017, which was written by employees of the Federal Ministry of Economics and the Federal Network Agency , Germany could immediately switch off 7 GW of coal-fired power plant output, which would correspond to around 12 to 15 medium-sized coal-fired power plant blocks. In 2020, the installed capacity would still be 18 GW above the annual peak load, in 2023 after the shutdown of the last three nuclear power plants it would still be 11 GW above this. This surplus could also be used in the event of power plant failures, increasing power consumption due to electromobility and the like. the security of supply in Germany is guaranteed. Some shutdown of coal-fired power plants could even have a beneficial effect on security of supply. The Federal Ministry of Economics later distanced itself from the study. An analysis published in August 2018 by the Federal Association of Energy and Water Management (BDEW) based on data from the European network operator association ENTSO-E and the Joint Research Center (JRC) of the European Union came to the conclusion that the assumed overcapacities in Germany and its Neighboring states have so far been set too high by a factor of 3–4.

With the entry into force of new EU pollutant limit values ​​for power plants from 2021, around one third of all coal-fired power plants across the EU will have to be closed or upgraded with modern filter technology. This applies in particular to lignite power plants such as B. the Jänschwalde power plant .

According to the approved framework operating plan of RWE for the Garzweiler opencast mine in the Rhenish lignite mining area in North Rhine-Westphalia, mining will end in 2045. The former red-green state government ( Cabinet Kraft II , 2012 to 2017) considered the mining of lignite to be necessary by 2030.

Studies on ecological consequences

At the end of 2015, the Agora Energiewende think tank presented a plan for a coal consensus analogous to the nuclear consensus, which should regulate an amicable phase-out of coal by 2040 with the power plant operators. This plan is based on the 2 degree goal. In June 2016, the HTW Berlin showed in a study that the coal phase-out should be completed by 2030 at the latest in order to achieve the Paris climate protection resolutions and limit the global temperature increase to 1.5 ° C.

According to a study published in the trade journal Energy in 2017 , an accelerated phase-out of coal could help to achieve Germany's climate protection targets by 2020, but the phase-out alone is not enough. The fulfillment of the goals has so far been considered unlikely. The population in Germany is largely opposed to coal-fired power generation, although the opposition has continued to rise in recent years. A large part of the population is in favor of phasing out coal. 17.7% of Germans were in favor of an immediate coal exit, 32.3% for a coal exit by 2020, 28.9% for an exit by 2030 and 7.6 and 4.7% for a coal exit by 2040, respectively 2050. 8.8% of the population reject a coal phase-out.

In October 2017, the German Advisory Council on the Environment published a statement entitled “Initiate coal exit now”, in which it called for a rapid exit from coal in Germany. This coal phase-out should begin immediately and be completed in the 2030s. According to the researchers, in order to meet the goals of the Paris Climate Protection Agreement, the economy should be practically carbon neutral by 2050 and all German coal-fired power plants should release a remaining budget of a maximum of 2 billion tons of carbon dioxide. In order to be able to use this remaining budget in the most sensible way, they deduce that the coal phase-out must be initiated very quickly and that the oldest and most emission-intensive power plants should be shut down by 2020. The remaining more modern coal-fired power plants should be operated between 2020 and 2030 with lower utilization per year, so that on the one hand emissions are reduced, but at the same time the secured capacity remains available. In the 2030s these power plants will also be shut down and the security of supply will then be secured by renewable energies in combination with storage power plants. In addition, the SRU recommended the formation of a “coal commission”, which is to work out a concrete phase-out timetable for the use of coal. The social and economic consequences for the approx. 20,000–30,000 jobs in the coal industry should also be taken into account. To ensure that the coal phase-out actually leads to lower emissions, accompanying measures such as the introduction of a minimum price for carbon dioxide or the cancellation of certificates in the European emissions trading system are necessary.

Studies on economic consequences

According to a study by Oliver Wyman published in October 2019, the wholesale prices for electricity could rise by the phase-out of coal by 2022 - from an average of around 40 euros per megawatt hour in 2018 to more than 65 euros. Electricity imports from abroad could more than double in the same period. After that, electricity prices could fall again, but for 2038 (the year in which the coal phase-out is to be completed), electricity prices on the exchange are expected to be 25% higher than the current price level. However, it is also pointed out that the generation and sale of electricity only make up around a fifth of the retail price.

A study published in August 2019 by the Energy Economics Institute at the University of Cologne on behalf of the North Rhine-Westphalia Ministry of Economics comes to the conclusion that electricity prices will rise to around 58 euros per megawatt hour by 2030. As a result of the coal phase-out, electricity prices will rise by up to 3.30 euros per megawatt hour more than in a scenario without a coal phase-out. The reasons for this are higher fuel costs and expensive electricity imports.

Political discussion

Demonstration against the coal phase-out: State ministers (Groschek, Dulig, Gerber), trade unionists ( IG BCE , Verdi ) and RWE managers on April 25, 2015 in Berlin
Demonstration “Stop Coal!” In the run-up to the first meeting of the Coal Commission on June 26, 2018

In the 2013 coalition agreement of the grand coalition ( Merkel III cabinet ), coal was described as a bridging technology until the switch to renewable energies. Among other things, this contract contains the following sentence: "The conventional power plants (lignite, hard coal, gas) as part of the national energy mix will be indispensable for the foreseeable future." The sentence was introduced into the coalition agreement by Ulrich Freese . Freese is a trade unionist ( IG BCE ), an SPD member of the Bundestag and a member of Vattenfall's supervisory board ; he has long been a lobbyist for the coal industry , especially the lignite industry.

Federal Economics and Energy Minister Sigmar Gabriel presented the national climate protection contribution for power plants in mid-2015 . This should mean that a further 22 million tons of CO 2 are saved in the electricity sector in order to achieve the climate targets for 2020. However, according to the BMWi, an exit from coal was expressly not the aim of the climate protection contribution. However, other actors from politics, science and civil society emphasized that phasing out coal is an integral part of the energy transition and that it should be shaped. An exit from coal-fired power generation at a later point in time would hit the coal fields all the more abruptly and painfully. The opponents of a coal phase-out made and continue to mobilize in the context of the discussion about the contribution to climate protection: On April 25, 2015, the unions IG BCE and Verdi organized a demonstration in which 15,000 employees from the lignite industry also took part, as well as company representatives and state and local politicians. The union IG BCE is also running a poster and advertising campaign against a coal phase-out in Germany. The national contribution to climate protection was buried under pressure from a strong lobby. Instead, the law on the further development of the electricity market with capacity reserve, network reserve and security readiness was passed.

There have been multiple demonstrations by the anti-coal power movement against coal -based power generation , for example in August 2014 in the form of a human chain with around 7500 participants from Brandenburg to Poland.

In 2016, the Verdi union changed course and had the coal exit calculated in a study and came to the conclusion that a socially acceptable exit was feasible and affordable. Shortly afterwards, the Greens presented their “Roadmap for the coal phase-out”.

According to a representative opinion poll published in November 2017, 76% of Germans would like the future federal government to gradually phase out coal so that the climate targets can still be met. Supporters of all parties spoke out in favor of this coal exit. The highest approval was found among voters of the Greens with 99%. Likewise, 81% of the SPD supporters, 75% each of the supporters of the Union and the Left and 70% of the supporters of the FDP and AfD spoke out in favor of a coal exit.

According to a survey carried out by TNS Emnid in September 2018 , 73% of Germans are in favor of a coal phase-out, which should be completed by 2030 at the latest. 46% are in favor of a coal phase-out by 2025. The supporters of the CDU and the SPD supported a coal phase-out with more than 80%. 2% of the population were in favor of phasing out coal after 2040, and 12% were against phasing out coal. In addition, 75% of Germans reject the clearing of the Hambach Forest for lignite extraction and instead advocate an imposed clearing stop by the federal government.

Regional policy decisions

In October 2017, the Senate of the State of Berlin decided to phase out electricity generation from coal by 2030. In July 2018, Stadtwerke Cottbus also decided to withdraw from lignite-based power generation and to build a new gas-fired power plant that should be commissioned by 2022 at the latest.

Energy industry practice in the recent past: emissions certificate trading, subsidies

In the summer of 2019 there was a switch from coal to renewable energies and natural gas in Germany as a result of increased certificate costs in European emissions trading and at the same time lower gas prices, with coal-fired power plants being increasingly pushed out of the market. As a result, electricity generation from renewable energies and gas-fired power plants rose by around 10 and 50%, respectively, while electricity generation from hard coal-fired power plants fell by around 50%. At the same time, the production of lignite power plants decreased by more than a third. In parallel to this economically induced shift in the production sequence of various types of power plants, electricity exports abroad decreased. It is generally assumed that there will be a shift in the merit order in the direction of gas-fired power plants from around EUR 35 certificate costs per tonne of carbon dioxide. At a price level of around 45 to 55 euros / ton, gas power plants could displace both hard coal and lignite power plants from the electricity mix. A dismantling of climate-damaging subsidies could also help make coal-fired power plants quickly uneconomical.

Outlook: decommissioning of coal-fired power plants

There are plans for the various coal-fired power plant blocks until when they will probably still be in operation. The latest decommissioning time is December 31, 2038.

→ For details see: Decommissioning paths of lignite and hard coal power plants


The mines in the Wolfsegg districts ( WTK , closed in 1995), Trimmelkam ( SAKOG , closed in 1993), Upper Austria, and Fohnsdorf (closed in 1977/1978) and Köflach ( GKB ), Styria, have been closed and coal-fired power plants have been closed in the past decades , converted to other energy sources such as oil or gas and / or demolished, e.g. B. 2015 the steam power plant Voitsberg .

In autumn 2019, coal- fired power generation in the Dürnrohr power plant was ended. In spring 2020, Austria's last coal-fired power plant in Mellach stopped generating electricity from coal. After Belgium and one day after Sweden, Austria was the third European country in which coal-fired power generation was completely discontinued.

In the Voestalpine in Linz , processes for reducing iron ore without coke, which is produced from hard coal, have been researched for several years.


French President Emmanuel Macron announced at the UN Climate Change Conference in Bonn in 2017 that France would close all coal-fired power plants in the country by 2021. A year earlier, then President Hollande had announced that it would take French coal-fired power plants off the grid by 2023.

Republic of Ireland

In July 2018, the House of Commons of the Republic of Ireland legally required the Irish Strategic Investment Fund to give up all of its coal, oil and gas investments within the next five years. The coal phase-out should be completed by 2025.


On October 24, 2017, Carlo Calenda , then Minister of Industry in the Gentiloni cabinet , presented a draft of a new energy strategy including a coal phase-out by 2025 in the Italian parliament. Italy has already withdrawn from nuclear power. In 2017, 15 percent of the electricity came from coal-fired power plants. The government approved the strategy on November 10, 2017.


The Canadian province of Ontario has so far completely phased out the generation of electricity from coal when the last coal-fired power plant was converted to the combustion of “Advanced Wood Pellets” (AWP) in 2014. The process to stop using coal-fired electricity was initiated in 2003. At that time, a power plant output of 7,500 megawatts was connected to the grid in Ontario, which corresponded to a quarter of the total capacity. The Canadian government wants to phase out coal-fired power generation by 2030.

New Zealand

On August 6, 2015, the power plant operator Genesis Energy Limited announced that it would close the last two coal-fired power plants in New Zealand by 2018, which would mean that New Zealand would completely phase out coal- fired power generation . In 2014, New Zealand already covered almost 80% of its electricity needs with renewable energies; by 2025 the proportion is to increase to 90%.


It was only in 2015 took RWE , the coal-fired power plant Eemshaven in the Netherlands in operation. This is to be shut down again by 2030.

In 2017, the four government parties in the Rutte III cabinet agreed in the coalition agreement to take all existing coal-fired power plants in the Netherlands off the grid by 2030. Of the total of five coal-fired power plants, three had only recently started up. The first power plant is scheduled to close during the government's legislative period in 2021. In 2018, the responsible Minister for Economic Affairs, Eric Wiebes , declared that older coal-fired power plants must be shut down by 2024 and newer ones by 2029 at the latest. In addition, a minimum price for carbon dioxide emission rights is to be introduced. The country's emissions are to be reduced by 49% by 2030.


The Norwegian Parliament unanimously decided on Friday, June 5, 2015 that the state pension fund of Norway, with fixed assets equivalent to almost 600 billion euros, should sell shares in companies that make 30 percent or more of their profits by doing business with coal. It is estimated that 50 to 75 companies are affected.


According to the Polish energy strategy of November 2018, the share of coal in electricity production is to be reduced to 50 percent by 2030 and to 22 percent by 2040.


The date initially planned for 2030 to phase out coal-fired power generation was brought forward to 2023 at the end of 2019. The Pego power plant is to be shut down in November 2021, the Sines power plant in September 2023. In July 2020, the power plant operator EDP announced that it would aim to shut down the Sines power plant, the largest Portuguese coal-fired power plant, by January 2021. The reasons given were the lower prices for natural gas and the increased costs for certificates in European emissions trading.


Sweden ended coal-fired power generation in April 2020 with the premature shutdown of the last coal-fired unit of the Värtaverket power plant in Stockholm. Before that, the power plant block, which should actually not have been shut down for good until 2022, was not needed once in the winter half of 2019/20.


In October 2018, the Spanish government and Spanish trade unions agreed to close ten Spanish coal mines. The government promised to spend 250 million euros in the affected regions over the next ten years. Among other things, this should be used to pay for early retirement, retraining and structural change. Through the power generation from coal 2018 Spanish about 2.3 percent of the consumed current in Spain were produced. Overall, the share of electricity from coal this year was 15%. On June 30, 2020, seven of the 15 remaining coal-fired power plants were shut down. Four more power plants are preparing to close within the next two years. The reasons given for the shutdown are stricter European environmental regulations and the rising price for certificates in European emissions trading. As a result, economical operation is no longer possible.


Most of the coal-fired power plants in Hungary were shut down primarily for economic reasons. As of June 2020, there are discussions about also closing the last remaining lignite power station, the Mátra , which is responsible for almost half of the CO 2 emissions in the Hungarian energy sector. According to Deputy Foreign Minister Barbara Botos, the government is in favor of 2030 as the year of the exit.


In the encyclical Laudato si ', Pope Francis advocates phasing out the burning of fossil fuels such as coal.

United Kingdom

The last coal mine in the UK closed on December 18, 2015. In April 2015 the 'Carbon Price Support' was increased; Since then, all power plants have to pay pounds per tonne of CO 2 in addition to the price of EU emissions certificates.

An end to coal-fired power generation was also announced in 2015: the twelve coal-fired power plants are to go offline by 2025. In 2016, the Longannet, Ferrybridge C and Rugeley power plants were shut down. The Eggborough and Cottam power stations followed in 2018 and 2019. At the beginning of February 2020, Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced that the coal phase-out would be brought forward by one year: the end date should now be October 1, 2024. On March 31, 2020, the Aberthaw and Fiddler's Ferry power plants were shut down.

Due to the COVID pandemic in the UK , the government imposed a far-reaching lockdown in 2020 ; the demand for electricity fell by around 20 percent. The last three remaining coal-fired power plants in England ( Drax , West Burton and Ratcliffe-on-Soar), and thus in Great Britain, have been shut down since April 9, 2020. The fourth coal plant Kilroot in County Antrim ( Northern Ireland ) is still in operation. In 2019, coal still had a share of 0.4 to 2.8 percent in electricity production.

United States

In the USA, generating electricity from coal causes external costs of around 350 billion dollars per year (see above).

Even without an explicit decision to phase out, the share of coal in electricity generation in the USA fell from around 50% in the period 1950 to 2008 to 30% in 2016, while electricity generation with natural gas increased.

The Obama administration drew up regulatory measures that should lead to a total of 30 percent less CO 2 being released from the burning of coal in 2030 - compared to the emissions in 2005. This would mean shutting down hundreds of coal-fired power plants and the rapid ones The construction of gas power plants, wind farms and solar power plants means.

In 2018, only five of the 50 states had no coal-fired power plants for general electricity supply: Among them, there was little electricity from coal-fired industrial plants in California and Idaho. Massachusetts and Rhode Island abandoned coal-fired power generation in the previous 6 years, Vermont hadn't had any for a long time. In the eight other states of Connecticut, Maine, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Delaware (all New England or the middle east coast), Oregon and Washington (west coast), less than 5% of electricity generation came from coal-fired power plants in 2018. Alaska, Nevada, and Mississippi are below 10%.

Economic consequences of the coal phase-out

A long-term exit from the generation of electricity from coal or its taxation could lead to a decline in the value of companies whose business models are based on the generation of electricity from coal. Investments by institutional investors such as pension funds in the coal economy could in the long run be associated with a higher risk than is often assumed by analysts today. Mining companies often keep coal reserves and undelivered mineral resources as fixed assets on their balance sheets. If this coal were no longer burned as part of an exit from the technology, these items would have to be devalued.

Several investors have therefore withdrawn from financing coal projects or have significantly reduced them. For example, the World Bank and the European Investment Bank only participate in the financing of coal projects in exceptional cases.


In 2019, the think tank Carbon Tracker assumed that 79 percent of EU coal-fired power plants could no longer be operated profitably by 2030. Compensation payments for the decommissioning of power plants could be illegal because they violate European state aid law.

See also


  • Daniel Rosenbloom, James Meadowcroft: The journey towards decarbonization: Exploring socio-technical transitions in the electricity sector in the province of Ontario (1885-2013) and potential low-carbon pathways . Energy Policy 65, (2014), 670-679, doi: 10.1016 / j.enpol.2013.09.039
  • Nils Johnson, Volker Krey, David L. McCollum, Shilpa Rao, Keywan Riahi, Joeri Rogelj : Stranded on a low-carbon planet: Implications of climate policy for the phase-out of coal-based power plants . Technological Forecasting & Social Change (2014), 89–102, doi: 10.1016 / j.techfore.2014.02.028 (pdf online )
  • Christophe McGlade, Paul Ekins: The geographical distribution of fossil fuels unused When limiting global warming to 2 ° C . Nature 517, (2015), 187-190, doi: 10.1038 / nature14016
  • Lena Wrba: No more coal: The decision to exit has been made. In: Welt am Sonntag compact. No. 44, Sunday, November 4, 2018, pp. 22-24.
  • Petra Pinzler, Mark Schieritz: Coal phase-out: Who is it good for? Whom does it harm? In: The time . January 31, 2019, p. 6 (section: Politics)

Web links

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