With Russia reducing natural gas supplies to Europe, several EU countries are considering burning further carbon-intensive coal to secure energy supplies for next winter. Germany and Austria this weekend announced emergency measures to cope with lower Russian gas flows, including the potential use of coal-fired power plants to produce energy.
The move comes after weeks of gas-supply cuts and reduced flows to Europe, which has prompted EU governments to seek alternative supplies and build up reserves. Russian state-owned energy giant Gazprom has turned off supplies to several EU countries for refusing to pay for gas in roubles — including Poland, Romania, Bulgaria, Finland, and the Netherlands.
But Germany, the Czech Republic, Italy, Austria, and Slovakia have also faced reduced gas delivery volumes, raising fears over gas security supply. Coal is still the second-largest source of electricity in Germany, and the war has opened a window to extend its lifespan — at least temporarily.
“In order to reduce gas consumption, less gas is to be used to produce electricity. Instead, coal-fired power plants will have to be used more,” the German economy ministry said in a statement on Sunday (19 June). The decision, which follows last week’s official appeal to families and businesses to save energy, was described by the country’s economy minister Robert Habeck as “bitter” but “essential” to lower the use of gas.