BERLIN — German energy company RWE said Tuesday that it will phase out the burning of coal by 2030, saving 280 million metric tons of climate-changing greenhouse gas emissions.
The decision will accelerate the closure of some of Europe’s most polluting power plants and a vast lignite strip mine in western Germany.
It will also prevent the eviction of residents of several villages and farms west of Cologne near the Garzweiler mine. The exception is Luetzerath, a hamlet that has been the focus of protests by environmentalists and which will now need to be cleared to extract more coal in the short-term.
The government argues this is necessary to ensure energy security amid the fallout of Russia’s attack on Ukraine.
RWE’s announcement boosts the German government’s efforts to bring forward the deadline for phasing out coal use by eight years as part of the country’s goal of ending its greenhouse gas emissions by 2045.
Economy Minister Robert Habeck, who is responsible for energy, said negotiations with the operators of Germany’s other coal mines and eight coal-fired power plants were ongoing.
The Fridays for Future climate activist group said the announcement that Luetzerath will be destroyed and some coal-fired plants will temporarily be kept online for longer to cover possible energy shortfalls was “cynical.” It said protests against the plan would be organized in several locations across Germany.
In parallel to its phaseout of coal, RWE said it would expand renewable energy production and build gas-fired power plants capable of burning hydrogen.
RWE, which over the weekend announced the purchase of American company Con Edison Clean Energy Businesses, said it is now on a path that is compatible with the 2015 Paris climate accord’s goal of limiting global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius (2.7 degrees Fahrenheit).
Separately on Tuesday, the Netherlands said it plans to join a German-led initiative to promote the market ramp-up of hydrogen produced using renewable energy.
German Chancellor Olaf Scholz and Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte said the two countries will also explore cooperation on future offshore wind parks in the North Sea that would produce both electricity and “green hydrogen.”
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