15 october 2020

What Germany Can Teach the US About Quitting Coal

While the Trump administration has tried to revive the dying coal industry, the German government set an exit date and made a plan to help coal communities survive.

By Dan Gearino, Inside Climate News, Oct 15, 2020

SPREMBERG, Germany—In Lusatia, there is a saying: "God created the beautiful landscape, and the devil put the coal underneath it."

For generations, this region in the former East Germany depended on coal for jobs and stability. Coal companies bought up villages and fields and cleared them to make way for vast surface mines, because coal was more valuable than real estate. Almost all that was left were occasional stone markers and a few relocated buildings like churches.

But now that era is ending.


Power Switch

Germany is in the middle of a painful and expensive process of quitting coal, with the government approving a plan this year to close the last coal-fired power plant by 2038. And Lusatia must look toward a new way of life.

The break from coal is one of the most contentious parts of Germany's transition to clean energy, a national effort started in earnest in 2000, with policies that led to a massive expansion of solar and wind energy and helped to decentralize the energy system through the growth of citizen-owned power cooperatives.

"We have the chance to create something new in this area that is special," said Sören Hoika, who grew up within earshot of a mine in Lusatia and is now co-owner of a tour business.

For Hoika, it is a time of opportunity, as tourism and other industries are poised to grow, some of them tied to a network of manmade lakes that the government has built by redeveloping old mine sites. For many of the miners and their families, though, it is a time of loss and struggle.

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