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31 May 2022, 13:50
Benjamin Wehrmann

Germany should consider speed limit, nuclear extension to counter energy crisis – IEA head

Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung

All countries in Europe and beyond need to take “extraordinary measures” to reduce their fossil energy demand in response to the supply crisis exacerbated by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, International Energy Agency (IEA) head Fatih Birol told newspaper Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung in an interview. For Germany and others, this could include the introduction of a speed limit on motorways and a runtime extension for its remaining nuclear power plants, Birol said. “This is the first global energy crisis, which is much more severe than the oil crises of the 1970s,” the IEA head said. “Luckily, though, we already have alternatives in place this time, for example renewable energy sources and electric cars.” Birol warned that the coming months would become challenging in terms of securing an adequate oil and gas supply across Europe, but measures like a speed limit could help alleviate the burden. “It’s not just about Germany. All countries have to lower speed limits and also reduce the average heating temperature by two degrees [Celsisus],” the agency leader said, adding that “we won’t get through the next half year without inconveniences”. Longer runtimes for the three remaining nuclear plants would be “technically feasible”, Birol said. “I don’t think that new nuclear plants should be built; this would take forever. But it can help to make the most of the existing plants.” He called on Germany’s government to find “structural answers” to the crisis for reducing the reliance on fossil alternatives like coal power and to not lock in fossil power investments. As an example, Birol said the planned liquefied natural gas (LNG) terminals should be built hydrogen-ready. “If you spend 15 or 20 percent more, they will also work with hydrogen.”

Like most of its EU counterparts, the German government has launched several initiatives to reduce the country's reliance 0n Russian fossil fuels, such as finding alternative sources, expanding renewables and reducing demand through greater efficiency and energy savings. A full halt to energy trading with Russia is thought to have grave consequences for the country's economy and could lead to lasting damage of many of its leading industries. A general speed limit on motorways and a runtime expansion for nuclear power plants have repeatedly been rejected as viable solutions by leading government figures.

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