Datteln 4, the coal commission and the energy transition

Published by Karsten Wickern on

It is a consensus that an energy turn away from fossil fuels and towards renewable energies is necessary and sensible for ecological, economic and social reasons. What is peculiar here is how the German government and companies are nevertheless acting in favour of old energy sources. This is also the case here: Datteln 4 is not a "partner of renewables", but will continue to slow down the energy turnaround!

After a long process involving many affected groups, the Coal Commission issued its recommendation in 2019. A minimum consensus that is unlikely to meet the Paris 1.5 degree target.
The Coal Commission also advises against the construction of new coal-fired power plants and against the commissioning of coal-fired power plants that have already been built but are not yet in operation.1)https://www.bmwi.de/Redaktion/DE/Downloads/A/abschlussbericht-kommission-wachstum-strukturwandel-und-beschaeftigung.pdf?__blob=publicationFile
This refers in particular to Datteln 4.


Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer and the CDU leadership then called for the coal compromise to be implemented "without compromise".2)https://background.tagesspiegel.de/energie-klima/cdu-spitze-verlangt-kohlekompromiss-ohne-abstricheIn contradiction to this, however, is the coal phase-out law, which was presented in January by Economics Minister Altmaier and has already been passed by the cabinet. Not only does it provide for a long term of Datteln 4, the Coal Exit Act also violates other contents of the coal compromise.


According to the application for approval, Datteln 4 may emit up to 8.4 million tons of CO2 per year at full-load operation.3)https://www.quarks.de/technik/energie/datteln-4-darum-ist-das-kraftwerk-so-umstritten/ As calculated, a significant part of this is additional emissions.According to a study by the DIW (German Institute for Economic Research), on behalf of BUND, the Coal Phase-out Act would result in 134 million tonnes more CO2 being emitted in the period from 2020 to 2040 than the coal compromise proposes. Merely 40 million tons of CO2 of these additional emissions result from Datteln 4.4)https://www.diw.de/documents/publikationen/73/diw_01.c.725608.de/diwkompakt_2020-148.pdf (S.5, S.16

This does not include the emissions caused by transporting the energy source. Ships and trains transport the coal over many thousands of kilometres from Asia and South America to Datteln. In addition, the opencast mines also have their own energy requirements. Existing calculations completely disregard these emissions and assume that the coal would end up in the Datteln coal bunker "by magic".
With renewable energy these considerations fall away completely!

Electricity market

Electricity generated in Europe is traded on the electricity market. There, the energy suppliers buy the electricity from the power plant operators. This takes place in direct contracts oder an der Börse. 80% des Stroms aus Datteln 4 wurden bereits an RWE und die Deutsche Bahn verkauft, die restlichen 20% werden an der Strombörse gehandelt. Das Hauptkriterium ist dabei der Preis.

Displacement of renewables

Electricity from Datteln 4 also competes with renewable energies. Although the feed-in priority regulation stipulates that renewable energies are fed into the grid before all other energies, this is a special case. This applies only to the so-called transmission grid. All electricity for DB, on the other hand, is fed directly into DB's distribution network at the Datteln 4 power plant site, for which there is no such priority regulation. In other words, even if 100% renewable energy were to be supplied, the dirty coal-fired power from Datteln 4 would not be pushed out of the DB network.
The remaining electricity from Datteln 4 is directly connected to the consumption centres in the Ruhr area via an exclusive line, so that here too the priority principle of renewable energies has only a very limited effect.

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