07 Mar 2022, 14:19
Benjamin Wehrmann

German operators prepare for extending runtime of decommissioned coal plants


German coal power plant operators are making provisions for a runtime extension of decommissioned stations in preparation for possible energy supply disruptions as a result of the war in Ukraine, business daily Handelsblatt reports. “We’re inspecting our facilities to remain ready if the government deems such measures necessary,” a spokesperson for energy provider RWE told the newspaper. Besides RWE, operators Vattenfall, EnBW and Steag also confirmed they are reviewing their decommissioning plans. About 26 gigawatts (GW) of coal power capacity are currently operational in Germany and this could increase to 34 GW next winter by re-starting plants that have already been taken offline or are being held in reserve, in order to partly replace Russian gas imports. “In light of the attack on Ukraine, calls are growing to revisit the country’s coal phase-out schedule,” the article says, referring to plans by the new government to bring the exit forward from 2038 to 2030 in line with the Paris Agreement. Plans currently include the decommissioning of about 5 GW capacity by 2024.

The director of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research (PIK), Ottmar Edenhofer, told the newspaper that “we will need to use coal plants, also in the power sector, especially if we are to reduce hard coal imports from Russia.” He argued that the country faces “an emergency situation that requires well-coordinated action.” Germany currently sources almost half its hard coal imports from Russia, but import companies say these supplies could still be substituted in the short-term. Plants in the country’s capacity reserve mainly run on domestically sourced lignite.

Germany’s economy and climate minister Robert Habeck from the Green party earlier this month said that ensuring energy supply security could take priority over climate action, adding that “this should not obscure the fact that, fundamentally, independence and sovereignty in energy policy and climate-neutral energy production are the same thing.” He said his ministry will assess whether to let coal and nuclear plants scheduled for closure stay open to ensure a secure power supply.

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