14 July 2022

No, Europe is not going back to coal

BERLIN, 14 JULY 2022 – Despite the smattering of temporary reserve coal measures announced by European governments in recent weeks, the number of European coal plants that are already retired or are covered by 2030 at-the-latest closure plans has risen this year to 171, according to data collated by Europe Beyond Coal. 

The threat of Russia cutting off fossil gas supplies to Europe has left governments that tried to use fossil gas while getting off coal, regrettably using polluting coal as a backstopping option as they prepare worst-case scenario emergency reserve measures ahead of the coming winter. However, importantly, no European country has revised its plans to phase out coal completely by 2030, with measures currently focused on responding to short-term power and heating shortages.

“Though clearly temporary, the decisions to put coal plants back into reserve could have been avoided had European countries made firmer commitments to energy savings measures and renewable energy solutions earlier, and not foolishly tried to transition away from one fossil fuel by using another,” said Kathrin Gutmann, campaign director at Europe Beyond Coal. “People across Europe need massive government support to reduce their energy bills before winter arrives. This means help to insulate and electrify their homes and power them with energy generated by solar and wind. This is the fastest, cheapest, and most effective way to permanently reduce demand for fossil fuels and help people through the winters ahead.” 

Of the countries to extend their coal exit, France is readying just its 647 MW Emile Huchet coal plant as emergency cover for its limping nuclear fleet this winter, meaning it will overshoot its 2022 coal exit plan by a few months [1]. Austria is preparing its small 246 MW Mellach plant as backup after closing its last plant in 2020. Greece has returned to its original 2028 coal exit plan, but power production from lignite was at an all-time low in Greece in the first five months of 2022, down 21 percent compared to the same period in 2021 [2]. 

It’s right that there is widespread dismay at coal rearing its ugly head, but we should not sensationalise what’s happening here: coal remains in terminal, structural decline. This is its final curtain call, but governments must double down on energy savings and renewable energy to ensure that near-term emergency measures do not become a brake on the transition to a fossil-free Europe,” said Fabian Hübner, campaigner in Germany at Europe Beyond Coal. “The German government has accompanied its emergency measures with repeated assurances that it is committed to exiting coal in 2030, and its plan to generate 80 percent of its electricity from renewables by 2030 is now law. The delivery of this package should be front-loaded so that Russian fossil gas is replaced at speed by wind and solar, and Germany doesn’t end up failing on its climate targets by burning too much coal.” 

ENDS

Contacts:

Alastair Clewer, Senior Communications Manager, Europe Beyond Coal (English)
[email protected], +49 176 433 07 185

Kathrin Gutmann, Campaign Director, Europe Beyond Coal (German, English)
[email protected], + 49 (0) 1577 836 3036

Fabian Hübner, Coal Campaigner, Europe Beyond Coal (German, English)
[email protected],+49 178 633 7720

Notes:

  1. https://www.thelocal.fr/20220628/france-may-restart-coal-fired-power-station-to-avoid-energy-shortage-this-winter/
  2. https://thegreentank.gr/en/2022/06/28/admie_may2022_en/
  3. Germany passes law to expand renewable energy production: https://apnews.com/article/russia-ukraine-germany-moscow-berlin-54f68326b9516d43dbbe2cde82c64dda
  4. Europe Beyond Coal’s coal plant database with information on all major coal power plants covering EU-27, UK and Turkey, and all countries in the Western Balkans: https://beyond-coal.eu/database/
  5. Overview of European country national coal phase out plans – to be updated on 14/07/22 to incorporate the following new coal phase out dates: Austria (formerly coal-free, now coal phase out 2023), France (formerly coal phase out 2022, now coal phase out 2023), and Greece (formerly coal phase out 2025, now coal phase out 2028): https://beyond-coal.eu/europes-coal-exit/
  6. Analysis by think tank Ember of Germany, Austria, France and the Netherlands’ reserve coal measures shows that if they are implemented to their highest extent, they would increase annual EU power sector emissions by four percent: ​​https://ember-climate.org/insights/research/coal-is-not-making-a-comeback/

About: 

Europe Beyond Coal is an alliance of civil society groups working to ensure a just transition to a fossil-free, fully renewables-based European energy sector. This means exiting coal entirely by 2030 at the latest, and fossil gas by 2035 in the power sector. We devote our time and resources to this independent campaign because we are committed to seeing a European energy system that protects people, nature and our global climate: www.beyond-coal.eu

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