Electricity industry cries foul over resistance to coal power

(dpa) - The electricity industry in Germany, where about 60 new coal-fired power stations are planned, attacked environmentalists Monday and said politicians lacked the courage to tackle the looming energy gap.

"We face a backlog of planning permissions," said Michael Feist, president of the BDEW, the industry's federation, on the first day of the Hanover Fair in Germany. The fair has a large section devoted to power-station equipment.

He urged the government to rush through consents, saying 60 projects were scheduled to be commissioned by 2018 in Germany.

He said politicians were too scared of residents' protests against new power plants and lacked backbone.

Coal is being hailed as Germany's sole alternative to nuclear power, which is being phased out. The industry says gas is too expensive and renewable energy is already close to the limits.

Last week, one of the biggest German projects, the 1,640-megawatt Moorburg plant to burn imported hard coal in Hamburg, appeared to move towards oblivion, with a hostile, Green official put in charge of planning consent.

Environmentalists charge that big fossil-fuel stations are a key contributor to global warming.

The electricity companies counter that new plants cause less emissions than old ones which need to be replaced.

Feist said continued planning obstacles would mean old plants being retained and Germany falling short of emissions-reduction targets.

He said renewable energy could only meet 30 per cent at most of German needs by 2020.

"All the people who oppose construction of a power station in their town expect to have electricity come out the sockets in their own homes," he said, adding that if consents did not come through, the industry would build plants for Germany in neighbouring nations.

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