Germany Reopens Coal Plants Because Of Reduced Russian Energy


Topline

Germany’s on Friday agreed to reactivate retired coal power plants to generate electricity, decreasing their reliance on precarious Russian supplies, but potentially bringing the country further from its climate goals.

Key Facts

Germany’s economics minister Robert Habeck called the move “painful but necessary,” the Guardian reported, and even the country’s green party is backing the new legislation, arguing it is necessary to manage the energy crisis.

Highly reliant on Russian energy, Germany is worried he will not have enough gas during the winter months.

Germany’s gas storage facilities are filled to around 63% capacity, but need to reach 90% by November 1 to make it through the winter.

Last year, 55% of Germany’s natural gas supply came from Russia – but following its invasion of Ukraine, Germany began buying gas from other countries, like Norway, the US and the United Arab Emirates, managing to decrease its reliance on Russian supplies by 20 %.

Germany planned to eliminate coal by 2030, but reactivating coal plants may put this target in jeopardy.

Already reduced to 40% of its usual capacity, Russia’s Nord Stream 1 pipeline – which runs through the Baltic Sea to Germany – will be closing for 10-day annual maintenance, and politicians fear that Russia will shut down the energy stream completely, potentially tanking the German economy.

Key Background

Facing harsh economic sanctions from much of Europe and the US, Russia is threatening to cut off energy supplies to numerous countries, and has already decreased gas flow to many, causing gas prices to skyrocket. The European Union plans to replace two thirds of its Russian gas use by the end of 2022, but some experts say this plan is too optimistic to succeed.

Tangent

Russia’s energy crisis may also endanger US climate policies. Natural gas company Cheniere is lobbying the Biden Administration for an exemption from regulations that limit carcinogenic emissions. Cheniere, a top US natural gas exporter, argues emission restrictions would impact the company’s facilities for months or years, reducing exports to Europe amid an already hazardous energy crisis, Reuters reported. Granting this exemption would mean Cheniere could continue to pollute poor and minority neighborhoods, going against Biden’s campaign promises.

Further Reading

Germany to reactivate coal power plants as Russia curbs gas flow (The Guardian)

Germany will fire up coal plants again in an effort to save natural gas. (The New York Times)

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