Germany may restart coal-fired power plants if Russia cuts off its gas, reports say

Business Insider US
The Boxberg coal-fired power plant in Lusatia near Germany's border with Poland. Patrick Pleul/Getty Images
The Boxberg coal-fired power plant in Lusatia near Germany's border with Poland. Patrick Pleul/Getty Images
  • Germany has proposed keeping coal plants in reserve rather than being decommissioned, reports say.
  • Doing so will allow them to be fired up if Russia stops supplying gas to Germany.
  • Germany is Europe's biggest economy and heavily reliant on gas from Russia.
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Germany could fire up its coal-fired power plants if Russia cuts off its natural gas supply, reports say.

The economy ministry said in a bill drawn up this week that it would order the power plants to be kept in reserve instead, Zeit Online and The New York Times reported. Germany had planned to shut down all of its coal power plants by 2030.

Europe's biggest economy is heavily reliant on Russian natural gas. Russia halted supplies to Poland and Bulgaria in late April for failing to pay for imports in roubles, and other European countries have been scrambling to reduce their reliance on Moscow's supplies.

Germany's proposed regulations would cover plants burning coal and lignite and apply until the end of March 2024, according to the reports. The bill still needs approval by Chancellor Olaf Scholz's cabinet, The Times reported.

Zeit Online reported that the plans cover coal power plants with a total capacity of 2.1 gigawatts set to be shut down in October and plants with a 0.5 gigawatt capacity set to be decommissioned in 2023.

Coal power plants with a capacity of combined 4.3 gigawatts and oil-fired plants with a capacity of 1.6 gigawatts are already in reserve, the site reported.

The ministry said it would maintain its plan to phase out the power plants, but that they would be reactivated if there was a threat of electricity shortages, Zeit Online reported. Doing so would allow gas to be made available for other purposes, it reported, citing the proposed bill.

Russia and other former Soviet states supplied more than two-thirds of Germany's gas imports in 2020, according to the German federal network agency.

Economists have estimated that Germany could lose 220 billion euros ($240 billion) in economic output, or 6.5% of its gross domestic product, over the next two years if Russian gas imports were halted. The CEO of Deutsche Bank has said a recession in Germany would be "virtually unavoidable" in such a scenario.

Robert Habeck, the economy minister, said Germany could become largely independent of Russian gas by 2024, and wean itself off Russian coal and oil even more quickly.

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