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28 Oct 2021, 13:37
Julian Wettengel

Scholz says Germany needs new gas plants as EU edges closer to taxonomy decision

Gas

Clean Energy Wire / EurActiv

Germany’s chancellor-in-waiting Olaf Scholz (SPD) has re-iterated that the country must build new gas-fired power plants to complement renewables and guarantee supply security during the transformation to climate neutrality. Plans by the prospective next government coalition of Social Democrats, Green Party and pro-business FDP include “the expansion of renewable energies and the electricity grid, but also the use of gas for a longer period of time and building new gas-fired power plants,” Scholz said at a conference organised by the Trade Union for mining, chemicals and energy industries (IG BCE), adding these are “the prerequisite for mastering this period of change.” Warning of a future “fossil-lock-in”, the Greens’ co-chair Annalena Baerbock said at the same event that these new plants will need to be hydrogen-ready, and natural gas only a bridging fuel. She also said that the potential government coalition has agreed to make Germany “the driving force behind the European Green Deal”. In the paper that serves as a basis for the ongoing coalition negotiations, “we agreed that Germany will not continue to dilly-dally on the Green Deal in the EU and on Fit for 55, but will state clearly and unequivocally that we support this greening project in the EU,” she explained. 

As Germany ramps up renewables and exits coal and nuclear power, it may need more gas power capacity, which would mostly be put to use at times of high electricity needs and little wind or sunshine – and not necessarily lead to more overall gas consumption. Think tank Agora Energiewende has proposed to build several small units in key areas of the country. Other researchers are adamant that existing reserves and future European interconnections are sufficient without great gas capacity additions needed, and grid operators are confident that the system will remain stable also after the last nuclear plant is shut down in December 2022.

The party leaders’ comments come at a time when the European Union is edging closer to a decision on whether to classify nuclear power and natural gas as sustainable, EurActiv reports. The inclusion of these fuels in the taxonomy – a set of rules designed to provide investors with a common definition of what is and isn’t green in order to channel more capital into sustainable businesses – has divided the EU for more than three years. According to EurActiv, the process could now be sped up due to the current energy crunch in Europe. In a tweet posted after an EU summit, during which leaders debated the taxonomy in the context of the bloc’s wider response to soaring energy prices, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said the EU needs renewables but also “a stable source, nuclear, and during the transition, gas. This is why we will come forward with our taxonomy proposal.”

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