The goal is a good one. The timeline is not.
Despite renewables overtaking coal in Germany last year and the last black coal mine closing, the country still gets a worrying 40% of its electricity from coal—a figure that is put to shame by the UK's rather rapid coal phase out over the last ten years or so.
Now Business Green reports on some decidedly good news. German policy makers, industry representatives and non-profit groups have agreed to a timetable for phasing out coal-fired power stations.The trouble is, the end date is set at 2038—not so encouraging given the rapid pace at which we now need to decarbonize in order to stave off the worst impacts of climate change. Even less encouraging is the fact that representatives of the major utility RWE have apparently described the final goal as being far too ambitious, and they are claiming that a review date of 2032—which many hope will be an opportunity to bring the phase out forward—could actually be an opportunity to push things back.
But as Lloyd Alter knows all too well, I am an unashamed optimist, and I tend to believe that end goals come before timetables. Take Sweden achieving its renewables goal 12 years early as just one example of how these things can go. Once the direction of travel is set, things have a habit of taking on a momentum of their own. Hopefully, now that the writing is officially on the wall for German coal-fired electricity, investors and policy makers will move resources accordingly.
This is a great step. Now Germany needs to pick up the pace.