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German 20% coal surge threatens climate goals – Agora

(Montel) A 20% increase in German coal-fired power production last year could threaten the long-term climate goals in the EU’s biggest economy, think tank Agora Energiewende said on Wednesday.

Germany’s greenhouse gas emissions totalled 761m tonnes last year, 5m tonnes short of the 2022 target, as well as the 2020 goal to cut emissions 40% below 1990 levels, Agora said.

The country will now have to step up efforts to reach the 2030 and 2040 targets to cut emissions by at least 65% and 88% below 1990 levels, respectively.

Last year, the government permitted the temporary return of around 10 GW of reserve hard coal, lignite and oil-fired capacity to the power market to curb gas usage in the face of sharply reduced supplies from Russia – in the wake of its full-scale invasion of Ukraine.

Coal-fired power generation jumped 20% on the year to 60 TWh and lignite output rose 7% to 109 TWh, as the more heavily polluting fuel saw profit margins improve relative to gas, Agora data showed.

Gas-fired output, meanwhile, dropped 16% to 75 TWh, while nuclear production was halved to 33 TWh due to the closure of 4 GW of capacity last year.

The government still intends to phase out coal as a power source by 2030, despite the recent increase in generation.

Renewable buildout “crisis”

Simon Mueller, director at Agora, also warned that Germany “is heading for a massive gap in the expansion of renewables” and that there was a “crisis” in the onshore wind sector, where capacity only rose by 2 GW last year.

Renewable capacity growth had to be tripled from present levels to reach the 2030 target for increasing the share of renewable energy in power demand to 80%.

Nevertheless, total renewable generation in Germany surged to a new annual record high of 248 TWh last year, up 10% from 2021. Yet, this was mainly due to favourable weather conditions rather than policies supporting the buildout of new capacity, Agora said.