The German government is in talks with the country’s second-biggest coal miner to end production by 2030, eight years earlier than the company planned, according to people familiar with the matter.
Discussions between Economy Minister Robert Habeck and Thorsten Kramer, CEO of LEAG, started after Habeck toured LEAG’s power plant near Spremberg last month and are continuing, the people said, asking not to be identified because the talks aren’t public. Germany wants to phase out coal in 2030 — bringing forward an earlier target of 2038. Now it needs to get the companies to help it comply.
During Habeck’s visit on February 22, Kramer pushed back against government pressure to meet the new timeline and insisted on sticking to the later date. The company — one of Europe’s top polluters — appears to be more flexible now, despite protests by some of its 7 000 employees, who fear losing their jobs.
The EPH Group, which owns 50% of LEAG’s shares, said it doesn’t comment on company operations. A ministry spokeswoman said talks with LEAG about its exit from coal are occurring at all levels.
Three years ago, Berlin promised LEAG €1.75-billion ($1.86-billion) to get out of coal by 2038, but the European Commission is investigating whether this state aid is legitimate. LEAG said in a company statement it’s in talks with the government about several issues, including this compensation and the infrastructure needed to convert power plants to using hydrogen.
In January, Kramer signaled in an interview with German broadcaster ntv that there could be scenarios under which the company would no longer burn coal by 2033.
The government reached an agreement in October with largest utility RWE AG to exit coal in 2030, when Europe’s biggest economy wants to cut carbon emissions by two-thirds and generate 80% of its power from renewable sources.
Germany boosted its reliance on the dirtiest fossil fuel after Russia curbed gas supplies in the fallout from its invasion of Ukraine. It even restarted some coal-fired plants that already were offline.