By Andrea Shalal
BERLIN (Reuters) – Germany’s ruling coalition will move quickly to begin implementing the recommendations of a government-appointed commission for exiting coal power by 2038, Economy Minister Peter Altmaier told German broadcaster ARD on Sunday.
Altmaier, a conservative, said he was in close touch with Finance Minister Olaf Scholz, a Social Democrat, about the issue, and some money had already been earmarked in the 2019 budget to get started with various measures.
“We need a whole series of laws”, including one that would secure new jobs and set out plans for closing coal-fired power plants, Altmaier said, promising quick action after a review of a hard-won compromise proposal finalised early on Saturday.
The plans call for shutting down the last of Germany’s coal-fired power plants by 2038 at the latest, and providing at least 40 billion euros (34.62 billion pounds) in aid to regions affected by the phase-out.
Altmaier said details would still need to be worked after the proposals were reviewed in coming days.
Environment Minister Svenja Schulze, a Social Democrat, said exiting coal would send a positive signal internationally, and studies completed by her ministry showed the shift would “by no means lead to higher electricity prices”.
Eric Schweitzer, president of Germany’s Chambers of Commerce (DIHK), welcomed the proposals, which must now be implemented by the German government and 16 regional states, but said they could drive electricity costs higher.
Christian Lindner, leader of the pro-business Free Democrats, said the exit from coal production was already in the offing due to climate change targets, and the commission’s plan would further inflate already high German energy prices.
“There was absolutely no need to think about an exit from coal with a fixed end-date. It was coming anyway,” he said.
He said it would be far more efficient and economical to use carbon offsets to regulate emissions from the energy and transportation sectors.
The coal commission proposed that an independent panel assess the announced measures in 2023, 2026 and 2029 to see whether they were delivering in the intended results with regard to jobs, security of supply and prices.
Schulze said regions that now produced coal would remain important players in the German energy market through investment in new technologies, renewables, and climate protection.
The proposals embody Germany’s strategy of shifting to renewable sources of energy — which made up more than 40 percent of the energy mix last year, beating coal for the first time — and follow a 2011 decision to halt nuclear power.
(Additional reporting by Christoph Steitz in Frankfurt; Editing by Catherine Evans)