Nuclear, coal, LNG: “without taboos” in the German energy volte-face
Germany signaled a U-turn in its key energy policies on Sunday, raising the possibility of extending the life of coal and even nuclear power plants to reduce dependence on Russian gas, as part of a sweeping policy overhaul after the invasion of Ukraine by Moscow. Europe’s biggest economy has come under pressure from other Western nations to become less dependent on Russian gas, but its plans to phase out coal-fired power plants by 2030 and close its nuclear plants by the end 2022 leaves him with few options.
In a landmark speech on Sunday, Chancellor Olaf Scholz set out a more radical path to ensure Germany will be able to meet rising energy supplies and diversify away from Russian gas, which accounts for half of Germany’s energy needs. “The events of the past few days have shown us that a responsible and forward-looking energy policy is decisive not only for our economy and the environment. It is also decisive for our security,” Scholz told lawmakers during the meeting. a special session of the Bundestag called to deal with the Ukrainian crisis.
“We need to change course to overcome our dependence on imports from individual energy suppliers,” he said. This will include building two liquefied natural gas (LNG) terminals, one in Brunsbuettel and the other in Wilhelmshaven, and increasing its natural gas reserves.
The plans are likely to be a boon for Germany’s main utility RWE, which has backed efforts by German LNG Terminal, a joint venture of Gasunie, Oiltanking GmbH and Vopak LNG Holding, to build an LNG terminal at Brunsbuettel. Separately, the German government has asked RWE’s smaller rival Uniper to relaunch plans to build an LNG terminal in Wilhelmshaven, the Handelsblatt newspaper reported on Sunday, after the company scrapped those plans at the end of 2020.
Uniper was not immediately available for comment and the economy ministry declined to comment. Earlier this week, Germany halted the $11 billion Baltic Sea pipeline project Nord Stream 2, Europe’s most controversial energy project after Russia officially recognized two breakaway regions in the east from Ukraine.
Russia has since invaded Ukraine, prompting the West to impose new sanctions on Moscow and making the issue of energy supplies even more pressing. The overhaul of energy priorities is accompanied by a paradigm shift in German foreign and defense policy, with Scholz also announcing a dramatic increase in military spending.
‘NO TABOOS’ Germany embarked on an ambitious transition to solar and wind power last year and Greens member Oliver Krischer said on Sunday that a bill to ensure renewables will account for 100% of Germany’s electricity supply by 2035 was already complete.
Germany will also increase the volume of natural gas in its storage facilities by 2 billion cubic meters (bcm) via long-term options and purchase additional natural gas on global markets in coordination with the European Union, said Scholz. Germany has 24 billion m3 of underground gas storage caverns, which are currently around 30% full, according to data from industry group Gas Infrastructure Europe.
Germany is also considering whether to extend the life of its remaining nuclear power plants to secure the country’s energy supply, said the country’s economy minister, Robert Habeck, a member of the Greens. Asked by German broadcaster ARD if he could imagine allowing nuclear plants to operate longer than planned under Germany’s exit plan, which calls for the country’s three remaining plants to be closed by the end of 2022 , he said: “It is part of the tasks of my ministry to answer this question… I would not reject it for ideological reasons.”
Isar 2, Emsland and Neckarwestheim 2 are the last nuclear power plants producing electricity in Germany after the country decided a decade ago to phase out the fuel following the Fukushima disaster in Japan. The three power plants belong respectively to the German energy companies E.ON, RWE and EnBW.
Habeck also said letting coal-fired power plants run longer than planned was an option, casting doubt on Germany’s ambitious coal exit, scheduled for 2030. “There are no taboos on deliberations “Habeck said, adding that it was Germany. objective of finally choosing which country will supply its energy.
“Being able to choose also means, in case of doubt, saying goodbye to Russian gas, coal or oil. And if Russia voluntarily cuts off this supply, then of course the decision is made,” Habeck said. “In that case, they will never be rebuilt. I think the Kremlin knows that too.”
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