Germany shut down 15 coal-fired power plants over the weekend as its government ramps up plans to phase out the fossil fuel in an effort to meet climate targets.

On Sunday, seven of the 15 coal plants, with a total combined capacity of around 3.1GW, were disconnected from the grid in the Rhenish mining area and in Brandenburg. On Monday, the economy ministry announced that eight additional coal power stations with a total capacity of 1.3GW will also be taken offline.

Germany has a target to fully phase out coal power by the end of the decade. After Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in 2022 and the subsequent European energy crisis, the government decided to keep several coal plants online as backup amid concerns over market prices and energy security.

German economy minister Robert Habeck told reporters the plants were now “neither necessary nor economical”. He added: “Several coal-fired power plants that were still on the grid as a precautionary measure over the last two years are therefore now superfluous and can be taken off the grid for good.”

Coal-fired electricity had already declined in the country’s energy mix significantly last year, falling to 26.1%, down from 33.2% in 2022. However, coal remains Germany’s third-biggest source of electrical generation after oil and gas. Jointly, the three fossil fuels make up roughly three-quarters of the country’s total energy mix, according to data from the International Energy Agency.

Last week, Germany energy major RWE permanently shut down five of its coal-fired power plant units in the country as the company also looks to phase out the fossil fuel from its energy production by 2030.

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As part of its decarbonisation plans, RWE has decommissioned 12 lignite-fired power plant units with a total combined output of 4.2GW since the end of 2020. Lignite is a type of low-grade coal used primarily as fuel in power plants.

Production of briquette – compressed coal dust or peat used as fuel – was also discontinued at the end of 2022, taking 120MW of fossil fuel capacity off Germany’s grid.