Germany’s electric future
In 2016 a total of 106 large coal-fired power plants produced electricity in Germany. They emit the majority of the annual German electricity sector emissions of 352 million tons CO2 - more than a third of the total annual German greenhouse gas emissions. These emissions endanger people’s health and contribute to global warming.
With the ratification of the Paris Agreement Germany committed to limiting the global temperature increase to well below 2 degrees celcius, with the aim to limit the increase to 1.5 degrees celcius. In order to keep within at least the 2 degrees celcius limit, a worldwide carbon budget of no more than 890 gigatons remains. For the German electricity sector that leaves a maximum of 4 gigatons to be emitted. An accelerated phase-out of coal by 2035 at the latest is essential to remain within this carbon budget.
WWF’s latest report “Germany’s electric future - Coal-phase out 2035” provides a robust phase-out plan for coal. It is based on the following criteria:
All coal-fired power plants have a guaranteed lifetime of 30 years. As of their 21st year of operation they need to comply with an emissions performance standard (EPS) of 3.35 tons CO2 per kilowatt. By the end of 2035 all coal-fired power plants need to be decommissioned, including those that have not yet reached the end of their 30-year lifetime. Thus, the oldest and dirtiest power plants will be taken off the grid first. At the same time the use of more efficient power plants with an EPS will facilitate the transformation towards a low-carbon and predominantly renewable electricity system.