As Russia reduces natural gas flows to Europe, Ustria is returning back to the coal age.
State-controlled Verbund AG, Austria’s biggest utility and most valuable company, was ordered late Sunday to prepare its mothballed Mellach coal-fired station for operation. This plant is located 200 km (124 miles) to the south of Vienna. Austria was only second European country that has completely eliminated coal from its electricity grid.
“The government and Verbund have agreed to convert the Mellach district heating plant, which is currently shut down, so that electricity can be produced again from coal in an emergency,” Chancellor Karl Nehammer’s coalition said in a statement.
Austria joins other European nations, including France, Germany, and the U.K., in extending the the life of coal-fired power following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Russia is reducing natural gas shipments to the Alpine country, where storage depots contain just 39% of the Austria’s annual needs.
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The Mellach station, which also includes a combined-cycle gas-fired plant, provides heat and electricity, to Austria’s second-biggest city of Graz. Verbund made the former coal station a centre for research to find safe and reliable ways to feed hydrogen fuel onto Austria’s power grid.
The Austrian government, which pledged 6.6 billion euros ($7 billion) to build gas reserves before winter, reiterated plans to impose a “use-it-or-lose-it” law requiring storage owners to fill depots. That probably won’t include Gazprom PJSC-owned Haidach, one of Europe’s biggest underground reservoirs, which remains empty because of a conflict between Germany and Russia.
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