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Germany: successfully stopping coal-fired power plants

Just a few short years ago the German government planned to build some 30 new coal-fired power plants across the country, even though Chancellor Angela Merkel and then Minister for the Environment Sigmar Gabriel were busy promoting Germany internationally as a climate pioneer.

FoE take part in a demonstration outside the venue for the UN climate talks in Bonn
FoE Germany take part in a demonstration outside the venue for the UN climate talks in Bonn.
Lignite and coal-fired power plants are more than twice as harmful to the climate as modern gas-fired power plants. The large clouds of steam from the power plants’ cooling towers also create another significant problem: more than half of the energy generated is lost as wasted heat. Coal-fired power plants also have high capital costs and are thus designed for a very long service life of over forty years. This means new coal plants will lock Germany into high greenhouse gas emissions for decades.

 

If built the carbon dioxide emissions from these plants would constitute one tenth of Germany’s total emissions from its industrial and energy sectors. Companies planning to invest in revitalising this outdated and unwanted technology included RWE, Vattenfall, EnBW and E.ON.

 

There has been intense resistance to these proposals at the grassroots level, however, and Friends of the Earth Germany/BUND and its many different local groups have so far succeeded in stopping 15 of them, which are spread over Germany. The ones that have been stopped are located in Berlin, Lubmin, Kiel, Brunsbüttel, Stade, Wilhelmshaven, Bremen, Emden, Dörpen, Düsseldorf, Köln, Mainz, Ensdorf, Quierschied, and Germersheim. Luckily Friends of the Earth Germany convinced many other organisations to join their campaign, which contributed to this huge success!

 

Friends of the Earth Germany have used legal challenges, which have been a very effective approach. Soon there will be decisions with respect to lawsuits against two further coalfired power plants, which are already under construction in Datteln and Hamburg-Moorburg. They intend to stop those too, together with their local grassroots members.

 

If Germany wants to achieve its stated environmental goals, the federal government must abandon its plans to build coal-fired power plants.

 

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