January 20, 2016 / 3:06 PM / 4 years ago

Germany must draw up plan for coal exit - environment minister

BERLIN, Jan 20 (Reuters) - Germany needs to start drawing up a plan with all stakeholders over how to exit coal-fired power generation, Environment Minister Barbara Hendricks said on Wednesday.

After global leaders clinched a climate-protection deal in Paris last month to transform the world’s fossil-driven economy, calls have grown for Berlin to set out a timetable to withdraw from coal in power production.

“Coal will still be needed as a bridge towards a new energy era. But we’re all aware that this bridge will end,” Hendricks told an energy conference in Berlin.

“We have to organise a way out of coal - for employees, regions, investors and companies ... I’m currently in talks to do that,” she added.

Hendricks declined to commit to a set date, but said a proposal by energy think-tank Agora Energiewende to withdraw from coal in power production by 2040 was “helpful”.

That proposal envisaged gradually removing around 3 gigawatts of coal power from the market per year from 2018, equivalent to closing around three to four large power plants.

The coal sector still accounts for around 40 percent of electricity generated in Germany and is viewed as an important pillar for a stable power supply, as the country exits nuclear power and moves towards renewable sources of energy.

On Tuesday, Economy Minister Sigmar Gabriel said he wanted to invite all relevant parties to a roundtable to discuss the future of coal power.

But he stressed it was important that this was a factual and not an ideological debate and said it was important to consider the economic consequences for those working in coal-producing regions. (Reporting by Caroline Copley and Christoph Steitz; Editing by Dale Hudson)

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