Germany is taking precautionary measures to avoid power shortages this winter by reactivating several shut-down coal plants. The Ministry for Economic Affairs and Climate Action (BMWi) announced that Germany’s largest power producer, RWE, will be allowed to relaunch two coal blocks at its Niederaussem plant and another one at its Neurath plant. Additionally, LEAG, the country’s second-largest producer of coal-powered electricity, will reactivate two blocks of its Jaenschwalde coal plant.
These facilities were operational last winter but have been on standby since mid-summer. The reactivation of the coal plants comes into force on Thursday and is expected to continue until March 2024. The government is also considering extending the operations of two RWE coal units until spring 2025 at the Neurath plant. This move is aimed at saving gas and preventing gas supply bottlenecks during the 2023/2024 heating season.
The Ministry for Economic Affairs and Climate Action stressed that this decision is a precautionary measure and will not affect Germany’s goal of completing the coal phase-out by 2030 or other climate goals. The ministry also pledged to evaluate the additional carbon emissions caused by the reactivation of the coal plants and plans to offer compensatory measures by next summer.
Germany’s reliance on coal power again is a response to concerns over last year’s energy crisis, which was caused by a drop in gas supplies from Russia. Prior to 2022, Berlin depended on Russia for roughly 40% of its gas supply. Due to the EU’s Ukraine-related sanctions on Moscow, German gas supplies were significantly reduced, leading to an energy crisis. While Germany has taken steps to replace Russian gas with alternate supplies and lower energy consumption, industry experts warn of continued threats of shortages. According to a report from the German gas storage operators group INES, Germany will remain susceptible to gas shortages during heating seasons until the winter of 2026-27 unless there are additional investments in fuel infrastructure, storage capacity, and pipeline connections.
The closure of Germany’s last three nuclear power plants in April this year has further heightened concerns about the country’s energy security. Analysts have warned that without sufficient alternative energy sources and infrastructure, Germany’s energy system could be destabilized, leading to potential power shortages.
In conclusion, Germany’s decision to reactivate shut-down coal plants is a precautionary measure to ensure sufficient power supply during the upcoming heating season. The government is aware of the potential environmental implications and plans to evaluate the additional carbon emissions caused by this action. It is important for Germany to continue diversifying its energy sources and investing in alternative infrastructure to mitigate the risk of future energy crises and ensure long-term energy security.