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27 Jul 2022, 13:35
Julian Wettengel

Germany should rethink strategy on domestic fossil resources and nuclear energy – fin min

Clean Energy Wire / RTL

Germany should rethink its approach towards domestic fossil fuels and nuclear energy as prices rise and the country is facing potential shortages, fuelled by the consequences of Russia’s war against Ukraine, said finance minister Christian Lindner. “Both on nuclear energy and on domestic oil and gas resources, we should come up with a new strategy for the mid-term,” said Lindner during a press conference in Berlin. Lindner called for a “non-ideological discussion” about European gas and oil reserves, the use of which he said was long considered to be not economically viable. With rising prices these could be competitive now and help counter possible shortages, said Lindner. The minister from the pro-business Free Democratic Party (FDP) also said he was open to a prolonged use of nuclear power in Germany. As power use would likely increase in the coming years – even more so in the current crisis which would mean that more people will heat their homes with electricity – the debate should not be about prolonging nuclear plants for only several months. “It's not just about one winter, but about a longer period of time until we have sufficient solar and wind capacity,” said Lindner. He added that using gas as a bridge fuel “turned out to be unfeasible after the attack on Ukraine.”

Germany currently aims to shut down its last three nuclear plants at the end of this year, but the debate about prolonging their use has gained new momentum as worries about a gas shortage have increased in recent days, due to Russia cutting deliveries further. The extent to which nuclear power could help in the current crisis is heatedly debated, as only a small share of gas is used in power production (most is used for heating buildings and in industry), and flexible gas power plants are often only used to provide electricity during certain peak demand periods – a function nuclear plants could not fulfil.

The remaining nuclear power plants in southern Germany could continue their operation if the government-initiated stress test finds that they are necessary to keep the grid stable this winter, German economy and climate minister Robert Habeck (Green Party) said in an interview with television outlet RTL. Citing the lack of power coming from France due to maintenance closures, Habeck said that a “special scenario” may show that the necessary voltage can only be reached in the German grid if a certain capacity supply is maintained in the south of the country. Habeck stressed however, that keeping nuclear plants operating would help very little with the gas supply crunch, putting the savings potential at around 0.5 to 0.7 per cent, which was disproportionate to the risks of nuclear power and the social debate that the issue of nuclear power was triggering. The FDP – junior coalition party – has demanded that the chancellery holds a “nuclear summit” to decide the use of nuclear power in the near future.

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