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Government powers down 15 coal-fired plants after decades of operation: 'Taken off the grid for good'

"The majority of electricity now comes from clean, climate-friendly sources."

"The majority of electricity now comes from clean, climate-friendly sources."

Photo Credit: iStock

Germany has shuttered over a dozen coal-fired power plants after concerns about energy security kept them online longer than intended. 

Power Technology reported on April 4 that the European country took seven coal-fired plants offline with eight more soon to follow, moving closer to its goal of phasing out the highly polluting fuel by 2030

"Several coal-fired power plants that were still on the grid as a precautionary measure over the last two years are therefore now superfluous and can be taken off the grid for good," German economy minister Robert Habeck told the German Press Agency, according to Euractiv, explaining that the plants were "neither necessary nor economical."

"The majority of electricity now comes from clean, climate-friendly sources," he added, as reported by Clean Energy Wire. Bloomberg reported that Germany still has some coal plants on standby for major winter peak needs but that those plants are currently not in service.

Germany kept the dirty energy plants as backups after Russia invaded Ukraine in February 2022. According to the European Commission, the union imported roughly 45% of its gas from Russia in 2021. By the summer of 2022, gas prices in Europe had soared to record highs, raising fears that people would be unable to keep their homes warm in the winter. 

As part of achieving energy security, the European Council notes that it sped up the timeline for a transition to clean, renewable sources, leading to a record year for solar installations in the EU in 2022. In 2023, wind energy capacity grew by 67% compared to the previous two years. 

Oil, gas, and coal accounted for more than 75% of Germany's energy mix in 2022, according to the International Energy Agency, but renewable sources made up more than half of the country's electrical grid in 2023. Offshore wind, solar, biomass, and hydropower were all part of the equation. 

Powering down the coal-fired plants is yet another important step and will ultimately lead to a healthier future. Data platform Statista notes that coal is the "deadliest energy source worldwide," with pollution from the fuel linked to heart disease, asthma, and cancer.

As a result, countries around the globe have been moving away from coal. World leaders from the G7 announced in late April that their nations — including Germany, the United States, and the United Kingdom — pledged to shut down all "unabated" coal power plants that cannot capture a substantial percentage of their carbon pollution by 2035.

The UK even plans to shutter its last coal-fired plant this year. In Australia and the United States, decommissioned coal plants are being repurposed for sustainable technology and clean energy projects, creating new jobs and opportunities. 

Power Technology notes that Germany's phasing out of the 15 plants will replace roughly 4.4 gigawatts of energy output from the dirtiest fuel around, largely with offshore wind power and solar paneling to capture otherwise-unused free energy in the environment. The country has also been streamlining its administrative processes to facilitate a smooth transition to clean energy. The new system should roll out in 2026

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