Shortly before Christmas, clearing at the Garzweiler opencast mine caused renewed unrest in the Rhenish lignite district.

At the energy company RWE, it was said that the actions near the town of Keyenberg were necessary because the opencast mine will reach this area in the first half of 2021.

Residents from the region, however, see the tree felling in connection with an opinion on the lignite phase-out that had become known shortly before.

"RWE apparently feels pushed into a corner by the new situation," said Britta Kox from the alliance "All Villages Remain".

The family of the 48-year-olds has lived in the village of Berverath for generations, it was only in 2015 that they took over the house of their great-grandparents with her husband and four children.

"In any case, we will stay until the end."

The background to the conflict is the political decision to phase out coal-fired power generation in Germany after a long struggle.

As early as January 1, 2021, the first power plants will cease production according to the timetable of the phase-out law.


However, the last power plants in the Rheinische Revier between Aachen, Cologne and Düsseldorf should run until 2038 according to current planning.

And until then, RWE would also like to mine lignite in its Garzweiler, Hambach and Inden opencast mines, which is burned in the region to generate electricity.

In order to implement the coal phase-out and structural strengthening laws passed in Berlin, the state government of North Rhine-Westphalia initiated a so-called lead decision in autumn, which is to be passed in spring.

And according to the draft, the five villages of Keyenberg, Kuckum, Ober- and Unterwestrich and also Berverath in the Garzweiler area have to give way to excavators in order to get to the lignite below.

From the point of view of environmental associations and coal opponents, however, an expert report prepared by the energy and water management consultancy BET, based in Aachen, shows that further excavation of villages at the Garzweiler opencast mine could be prevented.


The vice-parliamentary group of the Greens in the Bundestag, Oliver Krischer, had accused the Federal Ministry of Economics of deliberately withholding the BET report.

However, the ministry rejected this.

The report considered in the coal compromise was "only of limited use" due to the methodological approach.

The preservation of the villages in the Rhenish Revier was an assumption of the experts, "but in no way a statement or a result of the report".

On request, the NRW Ministry of Economic Affairs emphasizes that Minister Andreas Pinkwart was only informed about the existence of the report on December 1, 2020 in a telephone call from the Federal Ministry of Economics.

He was only informed of the content by his officials after a workshop on the BET report on December 9th.

By the end of the year, the state government had informed the public in a dialogue process about its draft of the key decision, by then more than 500 entries had been received from those affected.

On site, in Erkelenz and Kerpen, Minister of Economic Affairs Pinkwart and his State Secretary Christoph Dammermann also faced the residents, both events were broadcast live on the Internet.

"We will deal constructively with your suggestions", promised Pinkwart.


While the final design of the gradual phase-out of coal is still being disputed, the federal and state governments want to use high subsidies to locate new branches and industries in the Rhenish Revier, also to compensate for the currently almost 10,000 jobs in the coal industry.

To this end, the projects registered for funding from the region are checked and evaluated.

A Fraunhofer Institute for Energy Infrastructure and Geothermal Energy in Aachen and at the neighboring RWE power plant in Weisweiler, for example, have already been recognized as eligible for funding.

If coal-fired power generation is discontinued there soon as planned, the use of deep geothermal energy will be researched on site.

In the future, municipalities and companies in the south of the area could be supplied with geothermal energy from there.

Of 82 projects proposed from the region, 57 projects have already been able to successfully qualify for possible funding, according to the NRW Ministry of Economics in Düsseldorf.

Meanwhile, local resident Britta Kox and her family hope that their village will be preserved.

After all, for many years RWE had also declared lignite under the Hambach Forest to be indispensable, but now it should stop.

According to the previous plans, the excavators would reach Berverath in 2028.

But maybe things will turn out quite differently, says Britta Kox, cautiously confident.

"In any case, we didn't install a new photovoltaic system on our house roof until the spring."

This text is from WELT AM SONNTAG.

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Source: Welt am Sonntag