World Bank funds coal plants: outrage. Green Germany builds coal plants: silence

The World Bank is currently considering financing a lignite power plant in Kosovo. Queue the green outrage and the op-eds. What is this outrage over? A 600 MW coal power plant in Kosovo. As far as climate change goes this is rather loose change. Consider that China on average added 600 MW of new coal every 3 or 4 days for the last decade. This puts it in perspective. 

And as for lignite power plants, well Germany opened a 2.2 GW one last year. Yes, that is a lignite power plant almost four times bigger than the one in Kosovo. When it was opened Germany’s environment minister said this: “If one builds a new state-of-the-art lignite power plant to replace several older and much less efficient plants, then I feel this should also be acknowledged as a contribution to our climate protection efforts.”

If a word of criticism has been uttered by environmentalists outside Germany about this I have not heard it. And this lignite power plant is not alone. Between 2011 and 2015 Germany will open about 11 GW of new coal plants, almost twenty times more than the total the World Bank is considering funding. Again, this puts things in perspective.

Symbols and false narratives have come to dominate these debates. Germany is leading the way to a clean energy future, but we’ll ignore that this road is being paved with coal. The World Bank is considering funding an inconsequential coal power plant, but stopping it would mark a great symbolic victory. The problem of course is that the atmosphere is much more concerned about numbers, not symbols. That German lignite power plant may lack symbolic significance, but it will pump a lot more carbon dioxide into the atmosphere than the plant in Kosovo. And this is what should concern us above everything else.

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2 thoughts on “World Bank funds coal plants: outrage. Green Germany builds coal plants: silence”

  1. The new German plants are for the most part replacing older units that are being shut down simultaneously. However building a brand new coal plant today means it will be used during at least around 30 years. Which means the coal capacity in Germany as a whole is currently receiving a 30 years extension.

    And whilst they are talks about shutting down units that are becoming uneconomic,
    - on one side as they are the cheapest capacity available, the lignite and recent most efficient coal units will be the very last to be shut down after both older hard coal and nuclear,
    - but also they still are really needed to provide reserve capacity in the winter and not risk a blackout.
    So, in order to keep the lights on, the German government will never allow them to close, but will have either to completely modify the market, or to subsidize them as it has already subsidized the Irsching 5 gas unit.

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