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4 October 2021

Phasing out coal in the EU’s power system by 2030

A policy action plan

Phasing out coal in the EU’s power system by 2030


The European Climate Law has entered into effect. It obliges the EU institutions and Member States to take all necessary measures to reduce net domestic greenhouse gas emissions in Europe by at least 55 percent by 2030 based on 1990 levels. Hard coal and lignite power plants are one of the biggest greenhouse gas emitters in the EU. 16 EU Member States are already or will be coal free by 2025; however, to stay on a cost-efficient net zero pathway, coal will need to be completely out from the EU’s electricity system by 2030.

To provide a foundation for a fact-based discussion on completely phasing out coal in the EU power system, we tasked the consultancy enervis energy advisors to develop 2030 coal phase-out scenarios. These scenarios allow us to identify a suitable mix of enabling measures that phase out coal, ensure security of supply, minimise costs to consumers and avoid new fossil fuel lock-ins.

With the EU-wide coal phase-out just 9 years ahead, we took insights from the modelling to develop an action plan that we hope will guide EU and national decisions in the months to come.

Key findings

  1. The EU’s 2030 climate target of –55 percent requires a complete coal phase-out in the power system by 2030.

    A 2030 coal phase-out provides a CO₂ emission reduction potential of 1 billion tons beyond the 40 percent emissions reduction scenario at little additional cost to consumers (wholesale prices rise by 0.5 cent/kWh).

  2. Coal should be replaced by renewables.

    The required emission reduction of the power sector can only be achieved if coal is overwhelmingly replaced by solar PV and wind energy. A phase-out of the remaining 38 GW coal capacities in the six countries that do not have a 2030 phase-out date yet (Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Germany, Poland, Romania and Slovenia) must be met with 100 GW of PV and wind.

  3. Additional gas capacities will be needed, along with an overall decrease in the rate of utilization.

    The coal phase-out may require additional deployment of 15 GW of gas plant capacity to safeguard security of supply – while gas-fired power generation needs to fall 15 percent by 2030 in the EU. To avoid stranded assets, all new fossil gas investments should be hydrogen ready.

  4. To achieve the EU wide coal phase out at least cost, a policy mix is required.

    The EU ETS should be tightened as proposed by the European Commission. Several Member States should quickly develop or accelerate their plans for national coal phase-out, potentially complemented by a national carbon floor price. Member States should rapidly scale renewables.

Bibliographical data

Christian Redl, Alexander Dusolt, Philipp Litz, Nga Ngo Thuy, Michaela Holl, Matthias Buck (all Agora Energiewende); Julius Ecke, Rita Kunert, Miltiadis Zervas (all enervis)
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Publication date

4 October 2021

Suggested Citation
Agora Energiewende and enervis (2021): Phasing out coal in the EU’s power system by 2030. A policy action plan.
This publication was produced within the framework of the project Phasing out coal and lignite in the EU’s power system by 2030.

All figures in this publication

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