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German consumers to be protected

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German Economic Affairs and Energy Federal Minister Peter Altmaier addresses the media in Berlin, Germany, July 17, 2018. REUTERS/Fabrizio Bensch

BERLIN (Xinhua) – German Economy Minister Peter Altmaier is seeking to protect consumers in his country from additional costs arising from the phase-out of coal energy, he said in an interview with German broadcaster ZDF on Monday.

“The government will do all it can to protect consumers from increasing electricity prices” resulting from the transition to renewable energy, Mr Altmaier said. Affordability and reliability in energy supply would be “precious assets” to the minister.

Last week, the coal commission formed by the German government and bringing together politicians, climate protectors, trade unionists, entrepreneurs and researchers agreed on a coal phase-out by 2038 and sketched out the way to achieve this.

The commission’s final report proposes 40 billion euros ($45.6 billion) in aid for German coal regions affected by the phase-out.

Mr Altmaier announced that “two major laws” would be necessary to facilitate the implementation of the coal commission’s decision. The first law would regulate “how to create new jobs” and “how to help the affected regions,” while the second would set out a clear schedule for “when each plant can be taken off the grid.”

Mr Altmaier pledged that the government will examine the commission’s report carefully and constructively, supporting Germany’s strategy of switching to renewable energies. Last year, renewable energies accounted for more than 40 percent of the country’s energy mix for the first time, according to calculations published by PV research institute Fraunhofer ISE.

Germany’s utility giant RWE expects the exit from coal to also cost jobs. On Monday, RWE CEO Rolf Martin Schmitz told the German newspaper Rheinische Post that he could not yet say how many employees would be affected. “But I expect a significant reduction by 2023, which will go far beyond previous plans and what is possible through normal fluctuation.”

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