Germany has considerable reserves of hard coal (2,500 million tonnes) and lignite (40,500 million tonnes), making these the country’s most important indigenous source of energy.
In 2010, primary energy production totalled 137.3 Mtce, excluding nuclear. With an output of 65.5 Mtce, coal had a market share of nearly 50%. The mix of indigenous primary energy production can be broken down as follows: 52.3 Mtce of lignite (38.1%), 13.2 Mtce of hard coal (9.6%), 13.7 Mtce of natural gas (10.0%), 3.7 Mtce of oil (2.7%), 45.0 Mtce of renewable energy (32.8 %) and 9.3 Mtce of other sources (6.8%).
Germany’s primary energy consumption amounted to 480 Mtce in 2010. Oil accounted for the largest share (33.6%), followed by coal (22.8 %), natural gas (21.8 %) and nuclear energy (10.9 %). Renewable energy reached 9.5 %.Within coal, hard coal accounted for 12.1 % and lignite for 10.7 % of primary energy consumption. Germany is dependent on energy imports to a large extent, except in the case of lignite. About 77% of hard coal was imported, in comparison with 98% of oil and 87% of gas.
The power generation structure is characterised by a widely diversified energy mix. In 2010, gross power output was as follows: 42.4% from coal (of which 23.7% was from lignite and 18.7 % from hard coal), 22.6 % from nuclear, 13.6 % from natural gas, 16.5 % from renewable energy sources and 4.9% from other sources. This means that hard coal and lignite, as well as nuclear energy, are the mainstays of the German power industry.
The Federal Government adopted its ‘Energiekonzept’ or energy concept in October 2010. It combines a life extension of German nuclear power plants (on average by 12 years, with the last shutdown around 2040) with "green" energy policy objectives. Focus to date has been on ambitious climate protection policies: CO2 emission reduction of at least 80% by 2050 with step-by-step objectives for each decade, including a 40 % reduction by 2020; a massive increase in energy efficiency to yield total energy savings of 20% by 2020 and 50 % by 2050; and the steady development of renewable energies to a 60 % share of final energy consumption and 80 % of power generation by 2050. The energy concept should also be understood as a "Roadmap into the age of renewable energies" and the extended use of nuclear energy as the "bridge" to get there, although 2011 saw the collapse of this bridge.
To implement the new energy concept, an immediate 10-point programme was introduced for offshore wind and measures in connection with extending the life of nuclear power plants, including the introduction of a new tax on nuclear energy. Coal played only a secondary role in the energy concept, without any specific objectives or long-term perspective. Coal-fired power plants shall in future have the role of swing and reserve supplier to balance the ever-increasing power generation from renewables. Scenario calculations underlying the energy concept foresee a drastic decrease of overall coal use in Germany. The market for hard coal halves by 2020 and then halves again by 2050.
Subsidised hard coal production is to be phased out by 2018, in agreement with national and European regulations. Lignite use, according to the scenarios, remains stable until 2020, but practically disappears as an energy source by 2050.
From a technical point of view, the energy concept is based on a number of doubtful premises: a strong global agreement on climate policy, a perfectly organised European energy market, future technical innovations and efficiency leaps in the energy sector, solutions to all problems concerning public acceptance, and smooth changes to the structure of the energy economy given the assumed economic growth to 2050. Implementation of the concept therefore seems to some extent questionable.
In the meantime, the nuclear incident at Fukushima in Japan re-ignited the debate about extending the lifespan of nuclear power plants in Germany. The Federal Government initially announced a moratorium and wanted to redraft its energy concept during the summer of 2011. All political parties have now set themselves the objective of phasing out nuclear as fast as possible. A return to the situation prior to the granting of lifetime extensions to nuclear power plants is seen as a minimal objective, together with improved efficiency and an accelerated development of networks and infrastructure across the entire energy sector. Now, there is an agreement among all political parties not to restart the eight nuclear power plants that were shut down during the moratorium, to phase out the remaining nine nuclear power plants in Germany by 2022 at the latest, and to speed up the move to a green energy economy. For this purpose, the German government has outlined a package of several new or amended energy laws and further political measures to foster change in the energy sector.
When agreeing on objectives however, the way to an "age of renewable energies" has to be smoothed in Germany and elsewhere. Modern coal- and gas-fired power plants represent the technological bridge along this path. To this extent, the prospects for coal in general, and especially for coal-fired power plants under construction or in the planning stage, have become somewhat brighter.
In 2010, the German hard coal market amounted to 57.8 Mtce, of which 39.7 Mtce were used for power and heat generation, whilst 16.6 Mtce went to the steel industry. The remaining 1.5 Mtce were sold to the residential heat market.
Germany was the EU’s largest hard coal importer in 2010, as well as one of the world’s largest coke importers. Some 45 million tonnes of hard coal (steam coal and coking coal) or 77% of the national consumption were imported in 2010. The biggest suppliers of hard coal to Germany were Russia, with a market share of more than 22 %, followed by Colombia with more than 14%. Exports from the USA and Poland each accounted for 11% and most coke was also imported from Poland.
In the regions of the Ruhr, the Saar and in Ibbenbüren, coal is extracted by RAG DEUTSCHE STEINKOHLE. In 2010, RAG produced 12.9 million tonnes of saleable hard coal (13.2 Mtce).
The only remaining dedicated coking plant still in operation produced about 2.0 million tonnes of coke in 2010. Coking coal plants owned by the steel industry produced 6.2 million tonnes of coke.
Restructuring of the hard coal industry continues in Germany which still has five operating deep mines, namely the collieries West, Prosper-Haniel and Auguste Victoria (and Ost until its closure in October 2010) located in the Ruhr area, the Saar mine in the Saar coalfield and another deep mine near Ibbenbüren. Production in 2010 from these three coalfields can be broken down as follows: 75 % from the Ruhr area, 10% from the Saar and 15% from the Ibbenbüren coalfield.
Employment figures continued to fall steadily. The number of employees in the hard coal mining sector decreased during 2010 by 11.4% from 27,300 on 31 December 2009 to 24,200 on 31 December 2010. Productivity levels, measured in terms of saleable output per man-shift underground, increased after a crisis-driven decline in the previous years from 5,597 kg in 2009 to 6,092 kg in 2010.
In 2007/2008, the formal separation of RAG’s so-called "white" business, the former RAG Shareholding Limited Company, was completed and the new EVONIK INDUSTRIES AG was created. EVONIK, with its commercial activities in the fields of chemicals, energy and property, is now striving to list on the stock exchange as an independent company.
The core business of RAG became hard coal mining, as was the case for the former RUHRKOHLE AG, although it has retained certain related activities, especially in the fields of real estate in mining areas (RAG MONTAN IMMOBILIEN) and in mining consultancy and equipment sales (RAG MINING SOLUTIONS).
The private RAG Foundation, created in July 2007, is the owner of both RAG and EVONIK. Its remit is to bring its share assets in EVONIK to the capital market, retaining only a minority stake. Long-term liabilities after the final phase-out of hard coal mining will be financed by the proceeds. The German government has taken the decision to phase out – in a socially acceptable manner managed by the RAG Foundation – all state aid for coal production by 2018. Using its assets, the Foundation will promote training, science and culture in the mining regions.
Lignite availability in 2010 totalled 51.5 Mtce, with a domestic output accounting for 52.3 Mtce and imports of approximately 80,000 tce. Lignite exports amounted to 0.9 Mtce of pulverised lignite and briquettes.
Lignite production, which totalled 169.4 million tonnes (52.3 Mtce) in 2010, was centred in four mining regions, namely the Rhineland around Cologne, Aachen and Mönchengladbach, the Lusatian mining area in south-eastern Brandenburg and north-eastern Saxony, the Central German mining area in the south-east of Saxony-Anhalt and in northwest Saxony as well as the Helmstedt mining area in Lower Saxony. In these four mining areas, lignite is exclusively extracted in opencast mines.
Lignite is an indispensable energy source for Germany because it is abundantly available for long-term use and competitive. Furthermore, the lignite industry is an important employer and investor, adding major economic value to the mining regions.
More than 90 % of lignite production is used for power generation (154.6 million tonnes), accounting for nearly 24% of the total power generation in Germany.
In the Rhineland, RWE POWER AG produced a total of 90.7 million tonnes of lignite in 2010 from its three opencast mines: Hambach, Garzweiler and Inden. Almost 90% of the lignite was consumed by the company’s own power stations, whilst some 9.6 million tonnes were used for processed products and for private consumption. 0.2 million tonnes were used for other purposes. At the end of 2010, the lignite division of RWE POWER had a total workforce of 11,606.
The generation capacity of RWE POWER consists of five lignite-fired power plants with a total capacity of 10,847 MW. At Neurath, a new lignite-fired power plant with optimised plant technology (BoA 2/3) is being commissioned in 2011, boasting a gross capacity of 2,200 MW and replacing old plants. The lignite-fired power output in the Rhenish lignite mining area amounted to some 73 TWh in 2010.
In the Lusatian mining region, where VATTENFALL EUROPE MINING AG (VE-M) is the only producer, total lignite output amounted to some 56.7 million tonnes. The lignite is extracted in Jänschwalde, Cottbus Nord and Welzow Süd in Brandenburg, as well as in Nochten and Reichwalde in Saxony.
Lignite sales to public power plants amounted to 53.0 million tonnes. VATTENFALL EUROPE GENERATION AG (VE-G) is the main operator of lignite-fired power plants in the Lusatian area with a gross rated capacity of 6,500 MW. In 2010, the gross power output from the Lusatian lignite-fired power plants totalled 50 TWh. At the end of 2010, VE-M and VE-G had a total workforce of 7,653.
The Central German mining area around Leipzig yielded a total lignite output of 20.0 million tonnes in 2010. The most important company in this area is MITTELDEUTSCHE BRAUNKOHLENGESELLSCHAFT (MIBRAG), owner of two opencast mines at Profen (Saxony Anhalt) and Schleenhain (Saxony).
In 2010, MIBRAG produced 19.6 million tonnes of lignite, serving the three company-owned power plants at Deuben, Mumsdorf and Wählitz. At the end of 2010, MIBRAG had a total workforce of 2,000.
Another opencast mine operated by ROMONTA, is located in Amsdorf (Saxony-Anhalt), in the Central German mining area. In 2010, 0.4 million tonnes of lignite were mined there and processed to extract raw lignite wax. The wax-free fuel is employed for power generation at Amsdorf. At the end of 2010, ROMONTA had a total workforce of 302.
In the Helmstedt mining area, E.ON KRAFTWERKE produced 2.0 million tonnes of lignite. The heat and power generation sector is the only customer for lignite in the Helmstedt mining area. Extraction from the Schöningen opencast mine and operation of the Buschhaus (390 MW) power plant will continue until 2017. The lignite-fired power plant generated a total output of 2.4 TWh in 2010. On 31 December 2010, E.ON had a total workforce of 541.
Extraction of lignite from opencast mines changes the natural landscape, so land reclamation is an integral part of any mining project. Mining activities are only complete following the transformation of a former "industrial" opencast mine into a vibrant landscape. There is a long tradition of reclamation in ecologically ambitious ways. For more than 100 years, nature has inspired landscape restoration projects, including indigenous flora and fauna. Reclamation involves a learning process, in which there is always room for further improvement. Projects that return land to productive use, often with a high recreational value, are typical.