This study examines to what extent the results of the final report of the German “coal commission” allow an adaptation of the operating system of the german lignite opencast mines Garzweiler II and Hambach, which still allows the continued operation of the three BOA blocks at the lignite power plants Neurath and Niederaußem and at the same time prevents the destruction of the Hambach forest and the still inhabited villages.
The lignite production in the Garzweiler II and Hambach opencast mines in 2017 was approximately 70 million tonnes (t). In the coming years, however, demand will decline significantly. The reasons arethe lignite safety reserve, which leads to a demand reduction of 10 million t, as well as additional actions to achieve the 40% climate protection goal. The shutdown of the older blocks with a capacity of around 3 GW at the plants Niederaußem and Neurath as recommended by the German “coal commission” will lead to an annual saving of 23 million t from 2022 onwards. A reduction in briquette production represents a further potential of savings. This means that the annual demand from the opencast mines Garzweiler II and Hambach will be halved by around 35 million tonnes as from 2022 at the latest. A total of about 612 million t of lignite will still be needed to continue operation of the plants until 2035. If the coal exit is delayed until2038 a total of 672 million t of lignite would be needed.However, in terms of climate policy, it is advisable to exit thelignite mining much earlier. In order to meet the Parisclimateagreements, electricity production from coal must be closedby 2030 at the latest.
The results show that without clearing in the Hambach forest and with preservation of the villages Morschenich and Manheim 477 million t of lignite in the mining Hambach are eligible. In the mineGarzweiler II remain338 million t of lignite, even with preservation of the villages Keyenberg, Kuckum, Berverath, Oberwestrich and Unterwestrich and the Eggerather Hof and the Roitzerhof. As of 1st of January 2019 lignite reserves of 815 million t are still available for the overall system. This clearly exceeds the quantities still required until 2035 or 2038 and therefore shows that the Hambach forest as well as the threatened villages can be preserved. This surplus makes it possible to increase the minimum distance of 400 m for all inhabited buildings, as laid down by law for the town Holzweiler at the border oft the opencast mine and assumed in the calculations here.