Heralded as a “courageous step for climate protection,” Germany’s government has in 2022 reached a compromise with RWE, Europe’s most polluting energy firm, to stop mining and burning its filthy brown coal by 2030 – a full eight years ahead of previous plans. But the deal, negotiated by several Green-Party led ministries, also authorizes RWE to keep several units at one of the world’s most toxic power plants to stay longer on the grid, at least through 2025, instead of closing at year’s end. And despite cheers that the new agreement will keep 280 million tonnes of carbon in the ground, scientists fear the heaps of lignite now set to be burned will prevent Germany from meeting emissions limits set under the 2015 Paris Climate Agreement. Lead blogger and podcaster Michael Buchsbaum reviews the controversial decision.
Founded in 1898 in the industrial city of Essen, RWE has grown into one of the largest electricity producer in Germany and increasingly in the world. While Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and the ensuing energy crisis has upset plans to immediately reduce RWE’s lignite burn, in mid-October the company finally embraced a total coal phase-out by 2030. The about face comes days after RWE announced a blockbuster deal backed by Qatari’s massive sovereign wealth fund to takeover one of the United States’ biggest renewable energy producers. By the end of October 2022, as lead blogger and podcaster, Michael Buchsbaum, relates, despite RWE running three of the filthiest generating stations in Europe and still being dependent on massive volumes of fossil fuels, the company has become a global clean energy powerhouse.
After a year serving in Germany’s Bundestag, the climate-champion and Green MEP Kathrin Henneberger now finds herself struggling to defend the progress made by her predecessors. In response to Germany’s Chancellor Olaf Scholz personally calling Colombia’s then president, Iván Duque to increase coal exports, despite well-known human rights violations associated with mining there, Henneberger traveled to the Latin American nation to tour its fossil fuel producing regions. Once there she immediately began forging ties with Colombia’s incoming leftist government, the first in its history, with the intent on forming a new climate alliance aimed at jointly phasing out coal production and burning in both nations. But back home, she remains committed to reducing coal dependency and preventing the destruction of villages around the edges of Germany’s still expanding mines.
What follows is the second part of an edited interview between her and lead blogger, Michael Buchsbaum. Listeners can enjoy a longer version in a companion podcast.
Just before summer break, Germany’s parliament finally committed to phasing out coal. But the conservative government’s plan doesn’t really call for meaningful shutdowns until 2023 as coal capacity slowly rolls offline through 2038. Instead, the law greenlights a large new coal plant while awarding billions of Euros in direct payments to the aggrieved coal operators and affected regional governments, directly ignoring key recommendations of the once celebrated Coal Commission. Though Angela Merkel’s ruling coalition and industry heaped praise upon it, environmentalists and opposition parties condemned the exit plan as a golden parachute for an already dying industry that won’t ensure the nation meets its Paris Climate Agreement commitments. Michael Buchsbaum has the details.
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.
While most post-mining plans, especially for surface mines, calls for pits to be redeveloped into lakes or farm land, an increasing body of research and evidence shows that these ripped-up landscapes can be successfully transformed into clean energy gold mines—whose solar PV resource potential, unlike coal’s, is infinite. L. Michael Buchsbaum reports
The complex merger deal will transform Europe’s worst polluter, RWE, into one of its largest renewable energy generators allowing it unprecedented behind-the-meter influence as partner E.ON dominates German grid distribution and consumer access. This poses a threat for competition and could upend Europe’s energy transition.
The accelerating downward pressure on onshore wind energy expansion in Germany is paralyzing the industry. Community-owned renewable producers have been hit hardest, and elbowed out of the few markets that remain. L. Michael Buchsbaum takes an in-depth look.
With Germany’s coal plants scheduled to close by 2038, operators now face some major decisions about how to restructure energy systems. One idea is to convert polluting power stations into batteries. L. Michael Buchsbaum takes a look.