Media reaction

25 November 2020

State aid: European Commission pauses over German lignite deals

State aid lawyers at ClientEarth have reacted with concern after the European Commission gave the green light to Germany’s shutdown payouts to hard coal operators.

However, the Commission also signalled that it will most likely launch an investigation into Germany’s parallel arrangement with lignite operators – something the lawyers have long been calling for.

ClientEarth lawyer Juliette Delarue said: “Though the Commission has approved Germany’s hard coal exit arrangement, we are glad to see that the Commission will linger over its decision on Germany’s lignite deals.

“Decisions about public money must be taken with extreme care and, in the case of Germany’s coal phase-out plans, we have had major cause for concern. Ultimately, we are looking at a multibillion Euro golden handshake, done in the name of climate action, to keep lignite online just as long as it would have been with no phase-out plan at all. In fact, in some cases plants will be artificially kept online longer.

“This is an outrageous use of taxpayers’ money. We need to see wise use of the funds available to governments as the EU undergoes a clean and fair energy transition. The European Commission, overseeing the delivery of the Green Deal, needs to be ready to scrutinise national decisions and act on its findings.”

ClientEarth’s lawyers have published several reports on the issues with Germany’s coal compensation set-up – both hard coal and lignite – and urged Germany’s leadership to reconsider the deal it has proposed with coal operators, in light of potential State aid infringements.


Contact: Ellen Baker, Strategic Communications Manager | | +44 (0)203 030 5951

Notes to editor

Read ClientEarth’s briefing on the State aid issues with Germany’s coal phase-out (German only).

ClientEarth previously gave evidence to the German Parliament over the compensation arrangements.

Read ClientEarth’s letters to the European Commission raising issues with lignite compensation (English) and to German ministers to express concerns over the contract-based design of the phase-out agreement (German).

About ClientEarth

 ClientEarth is a charity that uses the power of the law to protect people and the planet. We are international lawyers finding practical solutions for the world’s biggest environmental challenges. We are fighting climate change, protecting oceans and wildlife, making forest governance stronger, greening energy, making business more responsible and pushing for government transparency. We believe the law is a tool for positive change. From our offices in London, Brussels, Warsaw, Berlin and Beijing, we work on laws throughout their lifetime, from the earliest stages to implementation. And when those laws are broken, we go to court to enforce them.