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Post-carbon energy governance in Germany and the political economy of the coal phase-out

Authors: Andrea Furnaro*, UCLA
Topics: Energy, Environment
Keywords: Decarbonization, coal phase-out, energy governance
Session Type: Paper
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


The development of alternative energies does not necessarily result in a reduced reliance on fossil fuels. This is one of the main lessons learned in Germany, a country that, despite being a global leader in the promotion of renewable energies, has failed to reduce its domestic use of coal. In the past decade, the country’s coal consumption has remained constant (37% of its power generation today). Given this context, Germany’s Energiewende will likely fail to achieve its CO2 reduction target of 40% by 2020. This “coal conundrum”, i.e. the ineffective replacement of fossil fuels by renewable energies also occurs in several other countries as well as on a global scale. Some governments have recently begun to consider initiatives to more actively remove high-carbon infrastructure, including eliminating subsidies to the fossil fuel industry and banning exploration and exploitation activities. An important question in this context is how the devaluation of energy infrastructure can be organized and what the socioecological consequences of this process are. By analyzing the decarbonization of Germany’s energy systems, and more particularly the 2019 agreement to close the 84 remaining coal-fired plants in the country by 2038, this paper seeks to contribute to the understanding of the political economy and the governance mechanisms used to phase out fossil fuels and decommissioning fossil fuel infrastructure.

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