Germany Must Swap Gas for Coal to Meet Green Goals, Study Finds

The money Germany is spending on expanding renewable energy won’t help it meet climate goals unless it also replaces coal-fired generators with cleaner natural-gas-fueled plants, according to a new study.

As things stand, carbon output would exceed the national target by 35 percent in 2040 even if renewable energies are expanded, consultancy Enervis Energy Advisors GmbH said today in a report commissioned by Trianel GmbH, a group of utilities. That’s because old coal units, the biggest polluters, are running at full capacity, delaying or canceling investments in more-efficient gas units, Enervis said.

“The money we’re pouring into expanding renewables will be squandered if we don’t phase out obsolete technologies,” said Uwe Hilmes, head of Berlin-based Enervis. About 4.3 gigawatts of coal plants should be shuttered because modern, cleaner fossil-fuel-fired plants “need room to breathe,” Hilmes told reporters in Berlin.

The collapse of the price of carbon combined with cheap coal imports from the U.S. and the high price of gas has led European power generators to mothball unprofitable gas plants and switch to coal.

Germany is debating how it can reach environmental targets as utilities including EON SE and RWE AG ramped up the use of coal and especially lignite, the dirtiest fuel. The country, which sought to replace its nuclear fleet with renewables by 2022, has watched the share of power it gets from coal rise to 45 percent last year, the most since 2007.

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