Gilded coal exit

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The Energy and Climate Weekly Show: Of ice-free Alps and protests against the coal phase-out law and RWE

After record temperatures in Siberia, large-scale forest fires spread again in Siberia this year. Various media reports that an area of ​​1.4 million hectares burned on Sunday. According to estimates by Greenpeace, an area ten times as large burned down in summer 2019. But it is still unclear how the fires will spread further. They are only fought on a small part of the area, since according to the authorities, this is not economically worthwhile. In uninhabited areas, the flames are therefore left to their own devices.

Heat waves, drought and fires in Arctic latitudes seem to be increasingly becoming the new normal in climate change, with the known consequence that forest and moor fires and thawing permafrost release even more greenhouse gases, which in turn accelerate them.

The effects of global warming have been dramatic in the Alps for years. After a new one study the Friedrich Alexander University of Erlangen-Nuremberg, the European mountains will probably lose almost all glaciated areas by the end of the century.

Between 2000 and 2014, the Alpine glaciers shrank by 22 cubic kilometers, which is 17 percent of their total mass. The Swiss Alps were particularly hard hit. Although the glacier shrinkage has been observed locally in many parts of the Alps for some time, the new study, which is based on radar and satellite measurements, enables a new overall picture for the Alps. The newly obtained data provide a basis for more precise modeling of the future glacier runoff.

If the water supply from the glacier melt decreases in the future, this could have far-reaching consequences for the entire region. In summer, around a fifth of the Rhone and Po are fed from the melt water of the glaciers. Electricity generation from hydropower would also be affected.

On Friday the Bundestag will discuss the coal exit law and the coal regions structural strengthening law. We have already reported on the draft of the coal exit law, which remains essentially unchanged (Berlin’s farewell to climate protection).

All coal-fired power plants in Germany are to be shut down by 2038 at the latest. For the decommissioning of lignite alone, 4.35 billion euros in compensation should flow to the power plant operators. Several reviews of the shutdown plan are envisaged, which could lead to an exit by three years. The coalition has been negotiating the compensation for the shutdown of the hard coal-fired power plants these days, with the result that the state is going a lot further. The operators are now to be compensated for decommissioning beyond 2027. Grants for converting hard coal to gas were more than doubled in the early days.

The amount of the proposed compensation to the power plant operator remains difficult to understand, since it is already evident that electricity generation in coal-fired power plants, primarily in older lignite-fired power plants, is becoming unprofitable, which we have reported on several times here.

So the climate alliance criticized that the public contracts with the power plant operators “too little climate protection for too much money” would bring. “Reality is increasingly overtaking the agreed phase-out of coal. Renewable and gas-fired power plants are currently producing significantly cheaper. Many coal-fired power plants have long ceased to operate economically and should be shut down earlier,” explains Stefanie Langkamp of the Climate Alliance

The current coordination process on the coal phase-out of excavator occupations in Lusatia and in the Garzweiler open-cast mine was accompanied by activists from the end of the site and the coal stop operation. Fridays for Future protested in Garzweiler and in front of the Federal Ministry of Economics in Berlin.

The planned coal exit law calls a coal extension law “end of terrain”. Ronja Weil, spokeswoman for the Alliance at the End of the Terrain explains: “Droughts, forest fires and 38 degrees in Siberia make it clear that every additional day of electricity from coal is a climate crime. With its coal extension law, the Federal Government wants to ensure that this crime is still 18 going on for years to come. ” For July 1st, Ende terrain announced that it would block the SPD party headquarters in Berlin.

There was also a protest on Friday in front of the RWE headquarters in Essen on the occasion of the general meeting of shareholders. The general meeting itself took place virtually this year in view of the Covid 19 pandemic. The protests were also directed against the plans of the federal government to compensate the group for the coal phase-out with 2.7 billion euros and against securing the existence of the Garzweiler opencast mine by 2038, which will further victims of the villages.

Antje Grothus from the Buirer for Buir initiative criticized the fact that RWE should also play a major role in structural change in the region: “Instead of letting civil society and environmental and nature conservation associations have a say in the structural change, the future agency Rheinisches Revier leaves it to the coal company represented in the Outlook Council and The mining trade union IGBCE, with which to decide on the project and funds allocation. The criteria according to which this is done is completely non-transparent. It damages the climate, the future-oriented structural change and our democracy that neither the NRW state government nor the municipalities emancipate from RWE. “

Of the The umbrella association of critical shareholders submitted three countermotions to the Annual General Meeting. The first was directed against the payment of a dividend of 80 cents. Instead, the balance sheet profit 2019 should be used to set up various funds, for example for climate damage, social and ecological consequences of mining the imported hard coal, and damage caused by open-cast lignite mining in Germany.

The other two motions were directed against relieving the pressure on the Executive Board and the Supervisory Board. It says: “The Executive Board of RWE AG does not adequately fulfill its responsibility to implement more effective measures for climate protection and to comply with human rights due diligence.”

RWE is far from becoming climate neutral, as Rolf Martin Schmitz announced as a goal for 2040. “If RWE implemented its own climate targets, it would still amount to a warming of 9.5 degrees Celsius,” write the critical shareholders, i.e. if the 30 largest DAX companies would all do business like RWE. RWE also reserved legal action against the coal phase-out in the Netherlands.

Other points of criticism are the continuation of the Hambach and Garzweiler opencast mines and the disregard for UN requirements on human rights due diligence. The hard coal for RWE’s power plants comes largely from Russia and Colombia, where “open-cast mines are operated with fatal ecological damage and in violation of human rights”.

In the view of the critical shareholders, the fact that the Supervisory Board did not discharge the Supervisory Board is argued that it failed to “monitor the management and ensure that it assumes its responsibility for the nuclear phase-out”. This relates to the continued operation of the Urenco uranium enrichment plant in Gronau. RWE is a shareholder in Urenco.

The situation in Germany is still not looking good when it comes to expanding renewable energies. As reported by the IWR specialist information service, wind power remains almost half signed in the Federal Network Agency’s latest tender. The bids for June 2 amounted to 467.59 MW with a tender volume of 825.53 megawatts. The situation was very different with the bids for photovoltaic systems. Here were 96.36 MW, the total amount of bids was 447.23 MW.

Finally, positive news: In the night from June 29 to 30, the second reactor of the Fessenheim nuclear power plant in Alsace was shut down, which means that the power plant is now out of operation after 42 years. However, there are still risks until the fuel elements have cooled down and can be removed from the system. That will take until 2023.

Nevertheless, the population in nearby Freiburg and Basel can feel safer today. For a long time, the French government had linked the shutdown of the ancient reactors in Fessenheim to the commissioning of the new Flamanville nuclear power plant, which, if it should ever take place, is still being delayed. The closure of Fessenheim was definitely decided in February. This means that 56 nuclear reactors are still online in France, many of them elderly. In 2018 Emmanuel Macron announced that by 2035 the share of nuclear power plants in power generation should be reduced from 70 percent today to 50 percent and 14 reactors would be shut down.
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