Germany to prescribe minimum levels for gas storages, set up 30-day coal reserve
Clean Energy Wire / Spiegel / Bloomberg
The German government is set to introduce a law to prescribe minimum levels for the country’s gas storages, according to economy and climate ministry plans seen by Clean Energy Wire. Storages will need to be 65 percent full by the beginning of August and 90 percent by 1 December every year, as stated in an overview document. Until now, companies decide when and by how much they fill storages, and low levels have contributed to the European gas price hike in recent months. Filling storages will continue to be the responsibility of energy companies, but the government plans to introduce auctions to set financial incentives. Germany has by far the largest storage volume for natural gas in central and western Europe (24 billion m3), which could supply Germany for two-three average temperature winter months, said the ministry paper. The draft law is now being coordinated between the ministries within the federal government.
News magazine Spiegel reported that the government is also working out the details of a planned coal reserve. It would guarantee operation of coal plants for 30 days in winter, but discussions about where to store the coal and possible sources are ongoing, according to the article. In regards to Germany’s most important energy source, oil, Bloomberg reported that the U.S. and its allies, among them the EU, are discussing a coordinated release of about 60 million barrels of oil from their emergency stockpiles after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine pushed crude prices above 100 USD.
In reaction to Russia's attack on Ukraine, the German government has announced it will establish strategic gas and coal reserves to decrease its dependence on Russian energy imports. Germany and the EU remain heavily dependent on imported fossil fuels, with Russia as the main supplier. Russia is Germany’s main supplier of natural gas (about 55% of imports) and hard coal (45%).
The government has said it aims to speed up renewables expansion to eventually become independent of fossil fuel imports. Until now, weather-dependent wind and solar power cannot supply 100 percent of electricity demand, which is also set to increase, and fossil fuels will be necessary to complement renewables at times of low feed-in for some time. While 2021 was overall a weak year for wind power, the Centre for Solar Energy and Hydrogen Research Baden-Württemberg (ZSW) and the German Association of Energy and Water Industries (BDEW) said today (1 March) that February 2022 was a record month with 21 billion kilowatt hours, and January had also seen strong wind power output. This was due to several storms hitting north-western Europe.