Estonia makes surprise push for coal subsidies

Energy transition| Financing the transition

The Estonian EU Presidency has opened the door to allowing massive coal subsidies in the new EU power market rules, proposing changes eliminating the carbon intensity threshold for existing coal plants at the 11th hour of negotiations.(1) The changes could allow the use of public money for plants to stay open longer, and even extend their lifetimes.

The Estonian proposal to the European Council drops the proposed carbon intensity threshold of 550gCO2 per KWh of electricity for existing plants – known as the “550 proposal” – and would allow them to receive capacity payments (public money to remain available). This change could see a fifth of all European coal plants have their lifetimes extended from 40 years to 50, or even 60 years at a time when momentum is gathering to close all plants by 2030 at the latest.(2)

“The Estonian EU Presidency is attempting to significantly water down rules that are essential to an orderly transition away from coal power. If it succeeds it will not only be condemning citizens across Europe to more health impacts from air pollution, it will be throwing billions of taxpayer euros down the drain. Allowing subsidies for uneconomic coal plants that must be closed by 2030 is alarmingly self defeating,” said Kathrin Gutmann, Campaign Director, Europe Beyond Coal.(3)

“The coal industry and those governments dragging their feet on climate actions love nothing more than the idea to use public money to keep dirty plants open for another few decades. This last minute change of heart from Estonia is indefensible and biased towards coal lobby interests,” said Joanna Flisowska, Coal Policy Coordinator with Climate Action Network (CAN) Europe.

“Up until now, Germany, Italy, France, Portugal, Denmark, and Austria have all supported the Commission’s original proposal to restrict coal subsidies. All the EU Member States and especially those that joined the Powering Past Coal Alliance must make it clear that supporting coal is not compatible with the implementation of the Paris Agreement on climate change.”


Greg McNevin, Communications Director, Europe Beyond Coal,, +90 546 873 4512

Kathrin Gutmann, Campaign Director, Europe Beyond Coal (German, English),, + 49 (0) 1577 836 3036

Ania Drazkiewicz, Communications Coordinator, Climate Action Network (CAN) Europe,, + 32 494 52 57 38

Joanna Flisowska, Coal Policy Coordinator, Climate Action Network (CAN) Europe,, +48 698 693 170


1) National ambassadors from all 28 member states will meet to discuss the proposed changes on Wednesday 6 December, ahead of an expected agreement by energy ministers at the energy council on 18 December. Here is the Estonian EU presidency proposal Proposal for general approach on a Regulation on the internal market for electricity.

2) A paper commissioned by Eurelectric on this shows a fifth of all European coal plant could have their lifetimes extended from 40 years to 50 or even 60 years by capacity payments.  

3) The UK capacity mechanism alone has already paid out €500m to its existing coal plants, keeping them open longer than they ordinarily would have.

4) The Powering Past Coal Alliance was launched at COP23. It includes EU member states Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Finland, France, Italy, Luxembourg, Netherlands, Portugal and United Kingdom. The Alliance declaration and list of international members is available here. Further announcements from the Alliance are expected alongside the One Planet Summit in Paris on 12/12/17.


Europe Beyond Coal is an alliance of civil society groups working to catalyse the closures of coal mines and power plants, prevent the building of any new coal projects and hasten the just transition to clean, renewable energy and energy efficiency. Our groups are devoting their time, energy and resources to this independent campaign to make Europe coal free by 2030 or sooner.

Climate Action Network (CAN) Europe is Europe’s largest coalition working on climate and energy issues. With over 140 member organisations in more than 30 European countries – representing over 44 million citizens – CAN Europe works to prevent dangerous climate change and promote sustainable climate and energy policy in Europe.


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