The Greens parliamentary group in the Bundestag is aiming to bring forward the phase-out of coal to 2030 in the east of the country as well. In a draft resolution for the parliamentary group’s closed meeting next week, it says that this is a “necessary step to achieve the climate goals”. The ARD “Capital Studio” and the “Süddeutsche Zeitung” had first reported on it. Saxony-Anhalt’s Prime Minister Reiner Haseloff (CDU) described an earlier exit from coal as “completely illusory” – not least because of the loss of Russian pipeline gas in the wake of Russia’s war of aggression in Ukraine.

An earlier phase-out of coal not only makes sense in terms of climate policy, but also provides planning and investment security for local people and regions in view of new developments, according to the paper by the Greens parliamentary group, which meets in Weimar from Tuesday to Thursday. The assumption that coal-fired power generation will be economical by 2038 has become obsolete.

In the coalition agreement, the SPD, Greens and FDP agreed to “ideally” bring the phase-out of coal forward by eight years to 2030. This was already agreed in autumn for the Rhenish mining area in the west. The next step is to bring forward the exit from lignite in the east, said Greens co-group leader Katharina Dröge. Economics Minister Robert Habeck (Greens) also spoke out in favor of this, but assured that this would have to be agreed by consensus. Whether the traffic light partners SPD and FDP will play along is an open question.

The reaction aus den Ostländern

In the affected federal states of Brandenburg, Saxony and Saxony-Anhalt, an earlier exit is viewed critically. It is “simply not explained how we want to achieve a self-sufficient energy supply,” said Saxony-Anhalt’s Prime Minister Haseloff of the German Press Agency on the sidelines of a media conference in Tutzing, Bavaria, with a view to the plans of the Greens parliamentary group. The scenario of an early exit from coal is “completely illusory” after the Russian pipeline gas, a crucial building block as a bridging technology, was lost, which was also the prerequisite for the original target of 2038.

As an alternative to lignite-fired power plants, the paper by the Greens group talks about “hydrogen-ready gas-fired power plants”, i.e. power plants that can initially generate electricity through gas combustion, but later also from hydrogen. It is foreseeable that eastern Germany will become a region where green hydrogen is produced. “Wherever lignite is still burned today, the experience and network infrastructure can be used. This entry secures countless jobs in the power plant sector.”

Is hydrogen the solution?

But there are doubts about that, too. It would be years before power plants could produce green hydrogen, Brandenburg’s Prime Minister Dietmar Woidke told the ARD capital studio. With regard to modern gas-fired power plants, the SPD politician said: “So first of all, power plants will be built that will burn gas at least in the next few years,” said Woidke. That would further increase Germany’s dependency on foreign countries – “regardless of which foreign country”.

In the energy transition, great hopes are placed in hydrogen, which is produced from renewable energies. In the future, it could also be used to generate electricity. At present, however, the energy source produced from green electricity is scarce and relatively expensive.