Europe’s continued reliance on fossil gas comes at a staggering cost. The extraction, transportation and burning of this fuel not only contribute to climate change and thousands of premature deaths each year, but also drive energy poverty, and make us vulnerable because of our heavy dependence on imports. Despite these warnings, many countries in Europe plan to increase their fossil gas capacity in the electricity sector. This is diverting crucial investments away from renewable energy solutions that are vital for cutting bills, safeguarding our health, and securing a prosperous future for our children. It is imperative that we swiftly prioritise the phaseout of fossil gas and redirect our resources towards clean and sustainable alternatives so that we take back control of our energy supplies, and address the biggest crisis of our age: the climate emergency.
France has extended the life of its last two coal plants, Emile-Huchet (647 MW) and Cordemais (1260 MW) until the end of 2024 through a decree which allows them to operate an additional 1800 hours. This effectively delays the country’s coal exit from 2023 to 2024.
The Spanish government accepted energy company Endesa’s request to close its 1,468 MW As Pontes coal plant by August 2024. It will be replaced by a portfolio of renewable energy projects, including 1 GW of wind power capacity, and create more than 1,300 jobs in the region of Galicia.
The Romanian government has published an emergency law for the phase out of coal by 2030. It is expected to be approved within a month. It constitutes a two year acceleration of the country’s original coal exit plan announced last September, and clears the way for Romania to exploit its enormous solar and wind energy potential.
Slovakia confirms that its 266MW Nováky coal power plant will close in 2023, demonstrating that European countries can proceed with their coal phase out plans and reduce their dependence on Russian fossil fuels at the same time.
The Slovenian government has announced that it will phase out coal by 2033 at the latest. The plan lacks ambition when compared to the coal phase out dates of peer countries like Slovakia (2030), North Macedonia (2027) and Greece (2025), and falls short of the country’s responsibility on climate change. Nevertheless, it brings a Paris-aligned, pre-2030 coal phase out within reach.
*How the German coal exit translates to our countdown
Though the end date for coal is foreseen in 2038 only, the law does retire approximately 23 GW prior to 2030. For lignite plants, a plant-specific phaseout pathway exists, but for hard coal, the law does not explicitly state which plants shall retire when, as the closure pathway shall be defined through auctions first. In order to reflect that, according to the law, all but 8 GW of German hard coal capacity will retire by 2030, we made assumptions on which hard coal plants would retire before 2030 to align the hard coal closure path with our counter’s methodology, which only registers retirements when the exact coal plant is known.
In December 2020, a set of three hard coal plants that, according to our evaluation, were implicitly intended to retire after 2030 (mostly because of their young age), unexpectedly won in the first auction that determines hard coal retirements. As a result, we added it to the list of plants that are to retire by 2030 at the latest. At the same time, we did not assume that other plants are now set to retire later, i.e. after 2030, just to fulfill the intended phase-out pathway of the German law. Instead, the list of plants set to retire by 2030 grew by three. This leads to a new setup with less than the 8 GW of hard coal capacity that are described in the law will be left after 2030. In short: we anticipate a quicker phase-out of German hard coal capacity.
Despite RWE's announcement in 2022 that it plans to exit coal by 2030, the federal government has the authority to retain some of RWE's coal units as grid reserve beyond 2030. We have therefore not yet included the plants covered by RWE's announcement in the list of coal plants scheduled to retire by 2030 at the latest.