Ideally - this word is the magic formula that the traffic light parties have found to solve their coal conflict.

The Greens have long been drumming in favor of ending coal-fired power generation by 2030 at the latest.

This was also one of their core promises in the federal election campaign.

The SPD and FDP, on the other hand, advocated sticking to what was recently agreed after a long struggle.

According to the "Law on the Reduction and Ending of Coal Power Generation" passed by the Bundestag and Bundesrat in summer 2020, coal combustion and thus also the exploitation of the open-cast mines in the west and east German lignite mining areas will come to an end by 2038 at the latest.

Pure burger

Political correspondent in North Rhine-Westphalia.

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A revision clause makes the phase-out possible and likely as early as 2035;

In 2026, 2029 and 2032 it must be checked how much lignite is really still needed.

But a coalition agreement draft, in which 2030 is not found anywhere, the leadership of the Greens would not have had to submit their base to a vote.

On page 58, the traffic light parties actually seem to be heading straight for the magical year: "To meet the climate protection goals, an accelerated phase-out of coal-fired power generation is necessary," it says at the beginning of the corresponding subchapter.

Immediately follows the restriction: "Ideally, this will be successful as early as 2030." In plain language: It will probably take longer.

Accelerate planning and approval processes

The three partners describe why this is so in an unusual depth for coalition agreements. They set out in great detail which requirements must be met so that the (earlier) coal phase-out can succeed: In order to "drastically" increase the share of renewable energies to 80 percent by 2030, planning and approval procedures must be accelerated considerably, other protected interests like species protection should take a back seat - even now, especially in wind farm projects, bitter disputes between nature conservationists and environmentalists are occurring again and again.

The conflicts are likely to multiply because, according to the will of the traffic light partners, two percent of the area of ​​Germany should be designated for wind energy. The networks also have to be expanded at record speed. Because the last nuclear power plant in Germany will be shut down in the coming year and numerous coal-fired power plants have already been taken offline, a new "bridge technology" is needed. The North Rhine-Westphalian Economics Minister Andreas Pinkwart (FDP), who was part of his party's coalition negotiation team, told the FAZ that gas-fired power plants with a capacity of four to five gigawatts would have to be built in his state alone. All of this makes it clear: the energy transition is a highly complex process,which - even if many things go more ideally than expected - will drag on for more than a decade.

So far, the energy company RWE has been allowed to excavate the five towns of Kuckum, Beverath, Unter- and Oberwestrich and Keyenberg, which belong to Erkelenz, for the Garzweiler II opencast mine in the Rhenish lignite mining area.

These villages “we want to preserve”, it says in the coalition agreement - this time without the restriction “ideally”.

This is possible because the villages can also be preserved with the existing revision clause.

The traffic light wants to bring the first revision date forward from 2026 to 2022 in order to check whether the security of supply can be guaranteed in the event of a forced phase-out of coal despite increasing demand for electricity.

Abandoned the fight for the homeland

The promises of the traffic light in the Rheinische Revier did not provoke great storms of enthusiasm. Even if the ideal traffic light scenario were to materialize in 2030, this would no longer be of any use to the vast majority of the residents of the five towns. In the meantime, they have worn down the sometimes decades-long struggle for their homeland - even if some vocal climate activists are trying to create a different impression. RWE has now come to an agreement with more than 88 percent of the property owners. In Keyenberg it is even more than 90 percent. RWE has already bought around 70 percent of the buildings. "We are currently in concrete acquisition talks with most of the other owners, some of which are about to be concluded," said a company spokesman for the FAZ

Some people fear that the new developments may have worsened their negotiating position. If you talk to the people in the area, you often hear the demand that the resettlement must be completed. The thought of others moving into their homes is almost unbearable. There is no right of return in the treaties.

While 200 houses have already been completed at the Erkelenz-Nord resettlement site in settlements with names like Keyenberg (new) or Beverath (new) and a further 120 are currently being built or planned, the five locations have become ghost villages.

On Sunday a particularly painful final act took place for many locals: In Keyenberg, Kuckum and Beverath the catholic houses of worship were deedicated.

If the villages are not torn down for open-cast lignite mining, they should remain as meeting places.

But what will become of the places is written in the stars.

Nothing has been invested in paths, canals and buildings for a long time.

Many houses are uninhabitable, and if they could still be saved, they would have to be completely refurbished.

Also ideally there will hardly be two Keyenbergs, Beveraths and Kuckums.

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