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Germany Reactivates Coal Plants For Winter Power Boost

Germany’s government is bringing back online several coal-fired units for this winter in an attempt to save natural gas and avoid power supply shortfalls, the Economy and Climate Action Ministry said on Wednesday. 

Several coal-fired blocks operated by RWE and LEAG at their Niederaußem, Neurath, and Jaenschwalde power plants will be temporarily reactivated until March 2024 as a precautionary measure to safeguard electricity supply in the coming winter, the ministry said, referring to a government decision to bring the coal-fired units online again.      

Those coal units were already operational during the 2022/2023 winter, when Germany was shocked into severely reduced gas supply with the end of Russian pipeline deliveries. The back-up coal capacity was put on stand-by this summer, until the government now decided to reactivate them for the coming winter.   

The coal power supply reserve will be reactivated to save gas in electricity generation and thereby prevent gas supply bottlenecks in the 2023/2024 heating season, the German economy ministry said, adding that Germany’s goal of coal phase-out ideally in 2030 remains unaffected, as do the nation’s climate goals. 

After March 31, 2024, the German economy ministry will evaluate how much additional greenhouse gas emissions the reactivated plants would have emitted. 

Coal acted as reserve supply in Germany last winter and will obviously play a role in keeping the lights on this winter, too, especially after Germany completed the nuclear power phase-out in the spring of this year. 

Germany ditched nuclear energy after taking its last three nuclear power plants offline in April, ending more than six decades of commercial nuclear energy use.

The country continues to call on consumers to save gas, and expects natural gas prices to remain high until at least 2027. 

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INES, the group of German gas storage operators, said in its August gas update that Germany would continue to be at risk of natural gas shortages until the 2026/2027 winter season unless it takes measures to add LNG terminals, additional gas storage capacity, or pipelines.

By Josh Owens for Oilprice.com

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