The lignite phase-out in the Rhineland is to be brought forward to 2030, which is eight years earlier than originally planned. This is the agreement the Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Climate Action and the North-Rhine Westphalia Ministry for Economic Affairs, Industry, Climate Action and Energy have reached together with RWE AG. At the same time, they have agreed to strengthen supply security in the current energy crisis and to keep two RWE power plant units which were to be switched off at the end of 2022 connected to the grid until 31 March 2024. This package leaves around 280 million tonnes of lignite in the ground; originally, twice that amount had been approved for extraction under the arrangements for the coal phase-out in 2038. The saving corresponds to around 280 million tonnes of CO2 that will no longer be emitted.

The corresponding agreement was signed today by the Federal Minister for Economic Affairs and Climate Action Robert Habeck, the Minister for Economic Affairs, Industry, Climate Action and Energy of North Rhine-Westphalia, Mona Neubaur, and the company RWE, represented by its CEO Dr Markus Krebber. The key points also include solidarity-based support for the employees affected by the coal phase-out. By bringing forward the lignite phase-out to 2030, the amount of coals still to be converted into electricity is to be reduced to such an extent that the 3rd resettlement section in the open-cast mine Garzweiler with the villages of Keyenberg, Kuckum, Oberwestrich, Unterwestrich and Bervath as well as the Holzweiler farms (Eggeratherhof, Roitzerhof, Weyerhof)] will be saved. Therefore, there will be no further resettlements against the will of those affected. Security of supply is also to be strengthened in the long term by new hydrogen-capable power plants.

"With this agreement, we are bringing forward the lignite phase-out in the Rhineland by eight years to 2030. This is a milestone for climate action and helps to meet our climate action targets. We must face up to our responsibility towards future generations: climate action ensures freedom and prosperity beyond the present day", said the Federal Minister for Economic Affairs and Climate Action, Robert Habeck.

He also emphasised: "Putin's war of aggression is forcing us to temporarily make greater use of lignite so that we can save gas when producing electricity. This is painful, but necessary in view of the gas shortage. The agreement is a good way to do this. It helps to create security in this difficult energy situation and is at the same time a big step towards combatting climate change. It will save us 280 million tonnes of lignite and thus around 280 million tonnes of CO2."

The Minister went on to say: "We will offer fresh prospects for the affected employees. The transition to hydrogen-capable power plants is urgently needed for this, even in the medium term. We must make these investments in the future now. This is the great task that the Federation, Länder and companies must face together. Despite the immediate crisis, we are mustering the strength to set the course now and to consistently continue on the path towards a climate-neutral economy. What is crucial is to expand renewable energies quickly and in large quantities. At federal level, we have put essential policies in place for this acceleration, and I am sure that the Länder and municipalities will press ahead with implementation in line with this very urgent situation."

In concrete terms, the agreement provides for the RWE coal-fired power plants Neurath F and G and Niederaußem K (3000 MW in total) to be taken off the grid as early as March 2030 instead of 2038. At the same time, security of supply will be further secured in view of the currently tense situation on the gas markets by keeping the Neurath D and E power plant units in operation until the end of March 2024; originally, they were to be shut down at the end of 2022. In addition, the Federal government can decide by the end of 2023 whether the plants will remain on the electricity market for another year or whether they will be transferred to a reserve.

By 2030, following a phase-out curve, all coal-fired power plants operated by RWE will then be decommissioned; this brings forward the original phase-out curve by eight years from 2028 to 2030. RWE plans to build new hydrogen-capable power plants to ensure security of supply. No additional compensation payment has been agreed with RWE for bringing forward the phase-out of coal.

The implementation of today's agreement is to be legally and contractually anchored through the amendment of the Act to Reduce and End Coal-Fired Power Generation, the public-law agreement on the reduction and phase-out of lignite-fired power generation in Germany, and further legal regulations and ordinances. Talks on the approval of the measures by the European Commission under state aid law are being conducted in parallel.

The agreement is a first step for the lignite phase-out in 2030; the Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Climate Action is working on further such steps and is discussing them with the relevant parties. "In each case, the specific situation in the respective mining areas must be kept in mind as it widely differs across the region. We take this into account in our current approach," said Minister Robert Habeck.

You can find the agreement and the annexes (decommissioning curve) by clicking here and here.

For an FAQ list, please click here.