Energy Democracy

Coal exit - scenario "all but Datteln 4"

What's the measure?

Every year ¼ of coal-fired output (installed output) is shut down and deactivated, starting in 2020, until all coal-fired power plants are off the grid by 2023 (except Datteln 4). Compensation of the dismantled power generation capacity is ensured through the flexible generation and flexible consumption by large consumers*. Due to its impressive efficiency, Datteln 4 may remain on the grid until 2035 and is renamed "Peter Altmaier Memorial Power Plant" in honour of the Minister of Economics.

Shutdown schedule

2020 the dirtiest ¼ coal power (lignite, old hard coal) 2021 the next dirtiest ¼ gets shut down (rest of lignite, hard coal) 2022 the next dirtiest ¼ gets shut down 2023 the last ¼ gets shut down - all but the Peter- Altmaier-Memorial-Power-Plant. 2035 The Peter-Altmaier-Memorial-Power-Plant (formerly Datteln 4) goes off the grid – three years earlier than originally planned ( ;-p ).

Compensatory measures:

  1. Increasing flexibility in electricity generation by adding gas-fired power plants with an installed capacity of 5 to 10 GW. If possible less or by using storage power plants or renewables instead of natural gas.
  2. Increased flexibility on the consumption side: Large consumers* (initially from 10 MWh annual consumption, from 2022 from 1 MWh annual consumption) shut down their production facilities during periods of low electricity generation. They are "encouraged" (financial benefits + legal obligation) to keep their electricity consumption as " disconnectable loads", i.e. to organize their production flexibly around the availability of (cheap) electricity.

Switching off loads has priority over switching on (fossil) natural gas power plants.

Disconnectable loads are also not new, but are already part of the current design of the electricity market and are already common in operating the grids (2): under the term 'balancing power', the Bunesnetzagentur puts disconnectable loads of currently two times 750 MW out to tender; the participating companies commit themselves to switch off or reduce these loads within a few milliseconds or 15 minutes, controlled by the grid operators. (3) This practice should, therefore, be extended to longer periods of time and made mandatory for more electricity consumers or for large consumers. Bayer, Volkswagen, Opel or Rheinmetall, the chemical industry, steel, and aluminum plants would then reduce their production on 3 or 5 days a year at energy-intensive sites and could carry out maintenance work or leave the workforce at home. Due to the good predictability of the production of renewable electricity from wind and sun, the respective companies would know 72 to 24 hours in advance. This does not represent any unnecessary or unreasonable hardship for the companies or the workforce.

CO2 saving: estimation

According to UBA (2017), coal alone was responsible for 249 million tons of CO2 emissions in 2017*, or around 71% of CO2 emissions in the electricity sector or 32.5% of energy-related emissions in Germany (total 766 million tons). (1) Implementation of the shutdown plan would, therefore, lead to a very substantial reduction in CO2 emissions in the electricity sector in the short term and a reduction of 249 Mt CO2 in the medium term. As coal would be partially replaced by gas, it would be expected that the full reduction could not yet be achieved by the time the expansion of renewable energy sources increased, as natural gas also causes CO2e emissions from its production, transport, and combustion. This shutdown plan stipulates that natural gas should only be used as a "gap filler" and in this function should be subordinate to the shutdown of loads (= large electricity consumers). How well the flexible connection and disconnection of large and medium-sized loads depending on the supply of electricity works has not yet been tested, so it is not yet possible to estimate how often and how many gas-fired power plants will have to step in. In theory, however, this measure could even lead to a short- and medium-term reduction in the use of gas as a fossil fuel, since gas is to be subordinated to the shutdown of large consumers. This also depends on how well and how quickly the expansion of renewable energies progresses. (*The reference to 2017 makes sense because in 2018 and 2019 coal-fired power plants were less busy than their normal capacity would allow due to mild winters and low gas prices. Neither of these will necessarily remain so in the future).

How does this work against climate change?

Coal is extremely inefficient; the rapid phase-out of coal is the most important single measure for climate protection. The savings potential in Germany is up to 250 million tons CO2. Temporary replacement with (natural) gas power plants does not directly reduce emissions to zero. As gas power plants are more flexible, they serve primarily as a backup and are only used on those days and hours when not enough electricity from renewable energy sources is available or when the flexible disconnection of loads does not sufficiently reduce the demand for electricity. It is to be hoped that the gas can soon be generated by power-to-gas processes with renewable electricity so that in the medium term fossil natural gas could be replaced by largely "CO2-neutral" gas.

References to other measures

For a transitional period - until the decentralized expansion of renewable energies - Germany would import more electricity than it exports. Necessary energy-saving measures, smart grids and the conversion to a low-energy working and living style in all other sectors should reduce electricity consumption in the medium term. A progressive electricity tariff could, above all as an immediate measure, achieve strong savings effects in a fair manner. In addition to measures, which accompany a structural change in the severely affected regions, a basic income model project to accompany the phase-out of lignite is possible.

Continuative literature and sources

More extensive literature, which cannot be reproduced here in full, but which may have served as a basis for the measure, or which is otherwise of interest. How literature references are inserted in the measure is described here'': ''{translationof orig_page="Literaturquellen" translation_lang="en" translation_page=""}

  1. Umweltbundesamt: Daten und Fakten zu Braun- und Steinkohlen, S. 31 ff. (2017, abgerufen am 25.2.2020)
  2. Bundesnetzagentur: Abschaltbare Lasten (abgerufen am 16.2.2020)
  3. 50Hertz Transmission GmbH: Abschaltbare Lasten (abgerufen am 16.2.2020)

  1. UBA (2017): Daten und Fakten zu Braun- und Steinkohle, Umweltbundesamt, S. 31 ff. Abrufbar unter
  2. Bundesnetz-Agentur: Abschaltbare Lasten, aufgerufen am 16.2.2020
  3. , zuletzt abgerufen am 16.2.2020