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In Germany's Plan to Phase Out Coal, a Big Polluter Will Benefit

The utility RWE set to receive compensation and job guarantees that the nuclear industry had to fight for in court.

A worker stands near the continuous track wheels of a giant excavator at the open pit lignite mine, operated by RWE AG, in Hambach, Germany.
Photographer: Alex Kraus/Bloomberg

A proposal to stop Germany from using coal for power generation within two decades may leave an unexpected beneficiary: The company that burns the most of the fuel.

The commission began outlining its proposals on Saturday ahead of a its final publication on Feb. 1. It recommended closing the last of the coal plants in 20 years – by 2038 – a much slower phaseout for coal than the abrupt closure ordered for nuclear reactors in 2011. Then, an meltdown at the Fukushima plant in Japan set in motion plans in Berlin to close all of Germany’s atomic plants within 11 years. While the nuclear industry had to sue for compensation, coal operators will be paid for closing their plants.