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German state government to protect lignite, curb wind

16 Jun 2017 16:29 (+01:00 GMT)
German state government to protect lignite, curb wind

London, 16 June (Argus) — The new coalition government of the central west German state of North Rhine-Westphalia will back the lignite sector and lobby on a national level for an end to subsidies for new renewable energy facilities.

The CDU emerged with the highest share of the vote in North Rhine-Westphalia's elections on 14 May, unseating incumbent prime minister, the SPD's Hannelore Kraft. North Rhine-Westphalia used to be the SPD's heartland. The Green Party, Kraft's coalition partner, also lost votes in the election.

The CDU and liberal FDP party reached a coalition agreement this week that they presented in full today.

They want to "restart" energy policy in the state, and say they will maintain a broad energy mix, based on lignite, hard coal and gas-fired power and heat generation to bridge the gap until renewables and storage technologies can deliver reliable security of supply. North Rhine-Westphalia is home to some 10GW, about half, of Germany's lignite-fired power generation capacity and to the mines that supply them. The Green Party, in North Rhine-Westphalia and nationally, back a gradual withdrawal from coal and lignite-fired generation.

The CDU-FDP coalition says it will support highly efficient combined heat and power (CHP) plants.

Headwinds for renewables

New onshore wind farms in the state will face tougher permit requirements, based on the coalition agreement. The parties will push for a minimum distance of 1.5km between new wind turbine and residential areas, and say they believe is legally possible. The minimum distance at the moment is based on the height of the turbine.

The CDU and FPD want to end subsidies for new renewable energy facilities under the nationwide renewable energy act (EEG) "as soon as possible", although subsidies for existing plants would be retained. The parties also want to push for an end to renewables' feed-in priority, arguing that renewable energy must be exposed to power market price signals. The new coalition will lobby for the creation of a "security of supply power market", where all generators, including of renewable power, would have to issue supply guarantees to consumers.

The North Rhine-Westphalia coalition agreement backs the Paris climate agreement, and the goal of near carbon-neutrality in the second half of this century.

But the parties said they do not want to pursue greenhouse gas reduction targets that exceed EU-wide goals. And the new government has identified the heating sector as the most fertile ground for cost-efficient greenhouse gas reductions.

Germany holds its general elections on 24 September. Chancellor Angela Merkel's CDU party has won all three state elections held so far this year.

In the north German state of Schleswig-Holstein, the CDU this week agreed to form a three-way coalition with the FDP and the Green Party.

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