Germany to Bring Back Coal Power Plants If Russia Cuts Gas

Germany plans to bring back coal- and oil-fired power plants should Russia cut off natural gas shipments to Europe’s largest economy.

According to Bloomberg, Robert Habeck, Economy Minister will present Tuesday an emergency decree that allows the government to restore the gas facilities in the event of a shortage.

Germany resorts to desperate measures in order to maintain its huge industrial parks and lights. This includes turning to dirty fuels, even though it means an increase in carbon dioxide emissions. Six gigawatts are of nation’s facilities which currently make up a part of a national reserve. Many of these were to close as part the coal phase out plan.

“This request for additional coal-fired power generation only occurs when there is a gas shortage, or if there is a threat of a gas shortage and the gas consumption in power generation has to be reduced,” according to the proposed law.

The decision comes even as Habeck’s Greens—part of Chancellor Olaf Scholz’s so-called traffic light coalition—want to bring forward to 2030. In the beginning, coal-phaseout was planned to be completed eight years later.

“We must complete the phase-out of coal in Germany by 2030. This is more important than ever in the current crisis,” according to the decree. “On the way there, we have to strengthen our precautions and keep coal-fired power plants in the reserves for longer in the short term.”

German utilities already stated that they were willing to make the plants available, if required. Uniper claimed it could send as much as 3 gigawatts to coal power generation, and RWE AG stated that it was currently reviewing which power stations could be switched back on. Germany has at the moment 4.3 gigawatts on its coal plant and 1.6gigawatts on reserve for oil.

Still, safeguarding energy supplies in Europe’s top buyer of Russian gas won’t be easy. Russia also supplies the continent with the bulk of its thermal coal to power polluting power stations, which many German companies have already closed.

Europe buys two kinds of coal from Russia—thermal, burned by power plants, and metallurgical, used in steel making. The Russian share of the EU’s imports of thermal coal is almost 70%, with Germany and Poland particularly reliant. With so much of Europe’s fuel coming from Russia, European utilities will have to pay more to get coal from places like South Africa and Australia.

A government official stated that coal plants would be activated if Russian President Vladimir Putin threatened a cutoff of gas. That would trigger the second of a three-stage Germany’s gas emergency plan.

This emergency decree allows the government to immediately activate coal facilities, without the approval of parliament. It can be used for as long as six months.

An internal list shows that 26 plants can be used. 15 of those are coal plants. 6 oil, and 5 lignite will also be used. A security alert is issued for these five cases. Bundesetzagentur, the German regulator, still needs to decide in five cases whether there is any systemic significance. After this, plants are automatically added to the reserve for the period March 31, 2024.

—With assistance from Vanessa Dezem.

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