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Comment by Hugo-Müller Vogg: Coal Tackle against Habeck – his own people do not trust his plans

Regarding their ambition in climate policy, the Germans are world champions: No other country has hastily exited nuclear power, and no other wants to get out of coal so quickly.

This double exit was initiated by the Grand Coalition under Angela Merkel. The traffic light coalition under Olaf Scholz (SPD) continues with this risky strategy, regardless of the significant changes in the energy markets due to the Russian attack on Ukraine.

This is risky because it should hardly be possible to close the supply gap when, according to the traffic light coalition’s vision, the last coal power plants ideally go offline by 2030. The Grand Coalition had initially planned to phase out coal by 2035.

Ban on Shutdown: An Ex-Green ironically opposes Habeck

Advocating for an earlier end to coal is easier said than done. Not only is there a shortage of the required amounts of renewable energies, but there is also a lack of the infrastructure to, for example, transmit the electricity generated from wind power in the north to southern Germany.

This is not only criticized by the oppositional CDU/CSU. Even in the FDP, there are voices warning against stubbornly adhering to the existing schedule. This is likely not to worry Minister of Economy and Climate, Robert Habeck (Greens) too much. Opposition is part of the trade and every government coalition has a few critics.

However, what Habeck needs to take more seriously is that the Federal Network Agency under his authority, according to information from “Welt”, has prohibited the premature shutdown of coal-fired power plants. Furthermore, this federal agency is headed by a man who is not suspected of wanting to obstruct the energy transition.

On the contrary, agency chief Wolfgang Müller is a former politician of the Greens. From 2000 to 2005, he was the Minister of Environment and Agriculture of the state of Schleswig-Holstein. Hence, it can be assumed that he has a fundamental sympathy for Habeck’s climate policy goals.

The authority, not surprisingly, attempts to play down the situation.

His authority has now approved the applications of several electricity network operators to keep certain coal-fired power plants offline before 31st March 2031. This concerns a total of 26 power plant units, so it is not a minor issue. Justification: The plants are “needed for grid stability,” although they would only rarely be in operation as they are intended as reserves.

The authority, not surprisingly, attempts to play down the situation. According to a statement, this approval is “a normal technical procedure.” It is only about “providing the power plant units as part of the grid reserve, as a double security.” The goal to exit coal-fired power generation by 2030 is “thereby not in question.”

Sticking to a goal is one thing; believing in achieving the goal is something else. When network operators insist on keeping coal-fired units ready for operation, it evidences mistrust towards the government. The network operators probably consider it reckless to rely on a secure and sufficient electricity supply from renewable energies from 2030 onwards.

Optimism is good, realism is better – and Habeck’s authority agrees

Those in need of coal reserves are those who consider it unrealistic to completely rely on renewables much earlier than 2035. “A contingency reserve” in the form of coal-fired power plants is also necessary only if it is assumed that the gas power plants, which are actually intended as reserves for renewable energies, will still not be available in sufficient numbers by 2030.

The network operators are following the motto: Optimism is good, realism is better. And Habeck’s authority agrees. For the Minister of Climate and the Greens, this presents a “gift” under the Christmas tree that brings very little joy. They would have surely preferred to do without it.



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