A year after Germany’s 28-member “Coal Commission” presented a fragile compromise brown coal phase-out, in mid-January Merkel’s Grand Coalition government formally released their own plan. Breaking with the Commission’s recommendations by slowing down the pace of the phase-out, immediately greenlighting the new Datteln 4 hard coal plant and showering RWE and other coal operators with billions of Euros, it also calls for more gas plants and additional wind turbine construction limitations. Neither ensuring Germany can adhere to the Paris Agreement nor its own clean energy targets, environmental groups are outraged as investors celebrate. L. Michael Buchsbaum takes us into the dirty deal.
An economic shockwave is tearing through South Africa, as the country went into full lockdown by the end of March to contain the COVID-19 virus now sweeping the globe. The immediate and devastating impact on the tourism industry shows what will happen if we don’t plan for a world that is turning its back on fossil fuels. Leonie Joubert brings us the news.
After swallowing up many assets of former rival E.ON and daughter company Innogy in a reconfiguration of both the European and global energy sectors, the new RWE has pledged to become carbon neutral by 2040. Long Europe’s worst polluter and a steadfast opponent of the clean energy transition, it’s working hard to rebrand itself as a green innovator. However, as it plans to annually invest 1.5 billion euros in new wind, solar photovoltaic and storage, RWE is mainly focusing outside of its German backyard where it continues to generate the filthiest energy in the world, cynically profiting off the rapidly slowing Energiewende. Michael Buchsbaum explains the new RWE.
Despite President Trump pulling out all the stops to prevent America’s coal industry from dying, renewables are rapidly overtaking its share of the U.S. electricity generation mix—and even cutting into fossil gas’ expansion. Since it’s clearly not America’s relaxed federal regulations pushing the toxic-gas belchers into the dustbins of history, what’s driving the green train? The rapidly maturing economics of clean energy, L. Michael Buchsbaum explains in part 2 of his series on America’s energy transition.
Despite Trump proudly rolling back at least 85 environmental rules to prop it up, America is mining and burning less coal today than it has in over four decades. Since the 2016 election, 27% of the entire coal-fired power fleet has retired—with many more closures expected. As the King dies, two questions remain: what will take its place? And who will clean up the industry’s mess? L. Michael Buchsbaum explores these questions and more in the first of a series treating America’s Energy Transition.
Preliminary figures conclusively reveal that renewables produced over 40 percent of Germany’s electricity in 2019. Combined with offshore production, wind energy overtook both filthy lignite and hard coal, and has now become the nation’s largest energy source. But as fossil gas prices fall and the ruling government’s fragile coalition stumbles its way through the Energiewende it created, 2020 will likely prove a make or break year for the clean energy transition. Only the future will reveal if 2019 will actually be remembered as the year renewables really powered past coal in Germany. L. Michael Buchsbaum explains.
It has not been a good year for Polish environmental policy; but, fortunately, it has also not been a total waste. Marked by the inertia and stubbornness of a government that, flying in the face of expert opinion, is imposing punishing and economically unsound ideas, it does seem as though some energy progress is being made, both as the government changes direction and as more citizens take matters into their own hands. Our Polish correspondent, Michał Olszewski, takes a look.
Despite all their rhetoric, Angela Merkel’s Grand Coalition government is clearly not all that interested in really powering past coal. The latest evidence is its decision to allow the Uniper-owned 1,200 MW hard coal-fired power plant, Datteln 4, to come online in 2020 — against the recommendations of the Coal Commission. As the government embarks on a bizarre sales campaign peddling the idea that Datteln’s advanced technology will somehow help improve the climate, activists are organizing a protest wave that will dwarf previous actions around the embattled Hambach Forest. Michael Buchsbaum reviews the situation.
Though in October, Poland’s ruling rightwing Law and Justice (PiS) party narrowly won a second term in office, its power was weakened after it lost control of the upper house of Parliament and failed to increase its majority in the more powerful lower chamber. Now one wonders if Poland is finally about to get serious about addressing the climate crisis? Following Mateusz Morawiecki’s first speech to Parliament as prime minister and his initial decisions, is a breakthrough in the nation’s position on the environment coming? Our Polish correspondent, Michal Olszewski, takes a look.
Partially inspired by Germany’s version, the Czech Coal Commission met for the first time earlier this summer. Though it’s creation was largely driven by the mass student protests that have fundamentally transformed the Czech debate on climate policy, only two of its nineteen members are from environmental organizations. With its final report due in less than a year, it’s still unclear if the commission will decide upon a coal phase out date or a surge in renewables instead of new nuclear power. To learn more, Klára Schovánková, head of the ecology program at Heinrich Böll Foundation’s Prague office, interviewed Coal Commission member, Jiří Koželouh, who also heads the energy program at Hnutí Duha, Friends of the Earth Czech Republic.