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Germany's 2017 hard coal imports fall 10.5 percent -importers

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* For VDKI on world coal seaborne trade, click FRANKFURT, Jan 12 (Reuters) - Germany imports of hard coal in 2017 fell 10.5 percent to 51.2 million tonnes from 57.2 million, preliminary data from coal importers' lobby VDKI showed on Friday.

* The figure fell short of a VDKI forecast made last summer and mainly reflected a 16 percent fall to 36 million tonnes in steam coal imports used by power generators

* Imports of coking coal used in steelmaking rose by 0.6 million tonnes to 12.9 million tonnes and those of coke, a related product, rose by 0.3 million tonnes to 2.3 million in 2017, VDKI data showed

* VDKI said some old coal plants closed and wind power expanded helped by its higher priority on power networks * "Coal-to-power capacities have been declining due to a lack of incentives for running them within a bad regulatory environment," VDKI Managing Director Franz-Josef Wodopia said in a speech at the group's annual meeting

* "We have to prepare for sustained pressure on our business over the next few years," he said, adding the situation could get better for coal when Germany fully exits nuclear energy in 2022

* Wodopia said Germany's imports had fallen from suppliers such as Colombia, the United States, South Africa, Australia and Poland but that supply from Russia had held up

* Long-term environmental policies seek to phase out coal-burning in Germany, which wants to be CO2 free by the middle of the century

* But would-be coalition partners in the new government have agreed to drop plans for more aggressive CO2 cuts by 2020 which could have spurred coal plant closures in the coming years * Hard coal burning for electricity fell by 10.2 percent to a generation volume of 94.2 billion kilowatt hours, data from industry group BDEW showed last month

* Coal still remains the backbone of power generation with imported hard coal and domestic brown coal together accounting for 37 percent of generation versus 33.1 percent from renewables

(Reporting by Vera Eckert; editing by Jason Neely)

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