Published on December 4, 2020

Czech Coal Commission votes for 2038 coal phaseout date

, Nicole Princlova (Centre for Transport and Energy)

The Czech Coal Commission today voted for a risky, late coal phaseout date for the country and conditioned it on building new nuclear units. The government must now reject this plan.

Minister of Trade and Industry Karel Havlíček said in a briefing Friday morning (Dec. 4) that the choice of 2038 was a compromise solution and added that phasing out of coal is likely to go hand in hand with building new nuclear units to ensure the country’s energy security.

“I consider 2033 to be the only responsible choice from the options presented – not only in terms of addressing the climate crisis, but also in terms of energy security and social impacts. Coal has a very poor economic outlook and we cannot plan that energy companies will burn coal for more than another ten years,” Jiří Koželouh, Head of Climate and Energy at Friends of the Earth Czech Republic and member of the Coal Commission, had said ahead of the vote.

Koželouh was one of two Commission members to vote against 2038, with two other members (both ministers in the Czech government) abstaining, and 14 members voting for this date.

The official coal phaseout advisory body to the Czech government was only considering scenarios with 2033, 2038, or 2043 exit years, underestimating the potential of renewable energy sources in the country. The Czech Republic needs to be coal free by 2030 to be in line with the Paris Agreement, and according to a new report by think tank Ember, it can achieve this by investing into renewable energy at a rate similar to other EU countries.

A sizable but realistic expansion of renewable electricity capacity is required. Czechia’s power system can incorporate much higher renewable capacity than current ambitions and Czechia must build quickly, but other EU countries with similar potential (or less) are already deploying wind and solar at the rates required.

The economic collapse of the coal industry will likely happen much sooner than 2038, as we can see for example in Germany, but there is a very strong push in Czechia to swap coal for nuclear power and fossil gas units instead of investing into renewables and sustainable solutions.

“We need to phase out coal in the Czech Republic in the next decade to tackle the climate crisis. And the Coal Commission could’ve been a great instrumental tool in this effort. But we wasted this opportunity,” Lukáš Hrábek, press officer at Greenpeace Czech Republic, added.