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Berlin could end coal by 2030

In 2017, Vattenfall and the federal state of Berlin presented the feasibility study “The End of Carbon and Sustainable District Heating Supply Berlin 2030”. Now the results of the study have been presented and it is concluded that the end of coal in Berlin is feasible by 2030 at the latest.


The feasibility study shows that by replacing hard coal, more than two million tons of CO2 emissions can be saved each year. This corresponds to about 13% of the total CO2 emissions in the state of Berlin, which in 2016 were 16.9 million tonnes in total. This would make Vattenfall’s performance as a district heating operator the single biggest contribution on Berlin’s road to climate neutrality in 2050.

“The phase-out of hard coal in Berlin is an important step towards the phase-out of all fossil fuels in the city’s heating system. It is also an important step for Vattenfall to reduce its total CO2 emissions and enable a fossil-free life within a generation,” says Vattenfall CEO Magnus Hall.

Regine Günther, Berlin Senator for Environment, Transport and Climate Protection, explains: “The output of coal by 2030 is an important step for Berlin in terms of climate protection. Replacing coal in district heating is a special challenge, but the feasibility study now shows in detail how it can succeed. However, much remains to be done after 2030, as natural gas also needs to be replaced, and all technologies are not yet available. In addition, we need additional measures at the federal state level, such as a CO2 emission price and instruments for a massive acceleration of building insulation.

Tanja Wielgoß, director of Vattenfall Wärme Berlin, says: “The feasibility study shows the possibilities of reconstructing Berlin’s district heating system sustainably and making it future-proof for future generations. With the release of hard coal by 2030, we are sending a clear signal in Germany’s largest city on how climate change can not only be thought through, but also made a reality.

How can coal output be managed by 2030?

The results of the study show that the district heating system can integrate and distribute heat from several sustainable sources: climate-friendly energy, such as geothermal and biomass, and the use of waste heat (especially from wastewater or industrial waste heat), which can contribute 40% to the replacement of coal. The use of new, highly efficient and modular gas-based CHP plants, ready to use hydrogen, could account for about 60%. The integration of storage and energy solutions for heating with the integration of renewable electricity into the heat supply could also provide climate-friendly heat for the city of Berlin. Another important part is the generation of energy from waste.

However, to reach the 2050 target, additional measures must be taken to achieve a 100% fossil-free heat supply. For example, the fuel base for CHP gas plants must be changed to end the use of fossil gas. Politicians must set the right framework to support the elimination of coal by 2030 at the latest and to allow greater decarbonisation by 2050.

The appropriate framework for achieving this objective includes the elimination of the photovoltaic expansion limitation in the Renewable Energy Sources Act, better conditions for the expansion of onshore and offshore wind, instruments to significantly reduce heat demand in new and existing buildings, incentives to increase insulation measures in buildings, effective CO2 prices in the heating and transport sector, the extension of the Combined Heat and Power Act (KWKG), including a bonus for replacing coal until 2030, and a basic subsidy programme for district heating infrastructure using renewable heat.

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