The new North Rhine-Westphalian Prime Minister Hendrik Wüst (CDU) can imagine an exit from lignite much earlier than planned.

"In North Rhine-Westphalia we are ready to phase out coal as early as 2030," said Wüst on Wednesday in his first government statement in the state parliament in Düsseldorf.

"And I would like to say clearly here and now that we preserve as many villages as possible." According to the current lignite pipeline decision of the state for the Rheinische Revier with the Inden, Hambach and Garzweiler II opencast mines, the energy company RWE is allowed to use the Garzweiler II opencast mine is actually still dredging the five towns of Kuckum, Berverath, Unter- and Oberwestrich and Keyenberg.

Pure burger

Political correspondent in North Rhine-Westphalia.

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It was only about a year and a half ago that the phase-out of lignite was brought forward from 2045 to 2038. After a long struggle, a coal commission set up by the currently only executive black-and-red federal government presented recommendations at the beginning of 2019, which then became, among other things, the coal phase-out law passed in summer 2020. It envisages the year 2038 as the final mark. According to its exploratory paper, the planned traffic light coalition of the SPD, Greens and FDP has decided to “ideally” bring the coal phase out to 2030.

Under clearly described conditions, according to the current law, it is already possible to bring forward the end of the extraction and use of lignite from the districts in North Rhine-Westphalia, Saxony-Anhalt, Brandenburg and Saxony by three years and thus to 2035.

In addition, North Rhine-Westphalia is already bearing the brunt of the lignite phase-out by 2030, taking into account the economic difficulties in the East German districts.

In 2016, the then red-green state government made it possible to reduce the production volume by 400 million tonnes of coal with its lead decision, the black and yellow lead decision of March this year once again stipulates a reduction of at least 1200 million tonnes.

Wüst calls for accelerated expansion of renewables

Just seven months later, Black and Yellow is ready for an amendment. North Rhine-Westphalia now wants to “do everything to ensure that an exit is successful as early as 2030,” said Prime Minister Wüst on Wednesday. “But to do this, we have to make coal as an energy source superfluous.” For this, a forced expansion of renewable energies is necessary. In addition, incentives would have to be created so that “alternatives for a secure electricity supply” would be expanded. They would have to be available at the latest when Germany can no longer fall back on coal and the renewable energies are not supplying sufficient electricity, warned Wüst.

At the same time, the Prime Minister pointed out that the generation of electricity from coal would become increasingly uneconomical anyway due to the climate protection measures introduced by the EU, the tightened carbon dioxide saving targets of the federal government after the judgment of the Federal Constitutional Court and the further expansion of renewable energies. “It is therefore already foreseeable that the amount of lignite that is still required will continue to decrease. And it is up to us to accelerate this even further. "

Wüst demanded clarity from the new federal government on questions of energy policy.

It is about clarity in the accelerated expansion of renewable energies and networks, about clarity “what the alternative to coal should look like in terms of security of supply”.

“And I demand from those who cannot get off the coal phase fast enough to finally give up their blockades against faster planning and approval procedures.” If there is clarity from Berlin, the North Rhine-Westphalian state government will become one ready for a new lead decision for lignite mining.