In the shift to renewables, several member states are paying coal generators to be available for back-up power

Eggborough coal power station, UK (Pic: Flickr/John Mabbitt)

EU countries are using the low carbon transition to justify new subsidies to the coal industry, instead of investing in clean alternatives, say analysts.

Six member states have introduced support totaling €875 million a year ($960m) since 2015, according to a report by the Overseas Development Institute (ODI). That is in spite of signing up to the Paris climate deal, which signalled a shift away from fossil fuels.

The bulk of this is schemes to keep old coal plants online, ostensibly needed as back-up generation for times when variable wind and solar power cannot meet demand. Germany and Poland are among countries planning further such “capacity mechanisms”.

This is a “false justification”, report co-author Shelagh Whitley told Climate Home, based on flawed demand predictions and a bias towards fossil energy supplies over measures to flex usage.

“What we need is really investment in the technologies that will support these [clean energy] systems over the longer term. If we are moving to a 100% renewables, we need storage, we need demand side response measures,” she said.

“They [capacity mechanisms] are favouring incumbents, where there is very little evidence that they provide the best…