(Bloomberg) -- Germany will bring several mothballed coal plants back to the market this winter to ensure that Europe’s largest economy can keep the lights on when demand peaks.
An order to allow the renewed activation of units belonging to RWE AG and LEAG was passed by the cabinet on Wednesday, according to an economy ministry release. The move should help save gas and prevent supply shortages in the upcoming heating season, it said.
Last year’s energy crisis forced the country to lean more heavily on burning coal to produce electricity after Russia curbed its pipeline gas supplies to the country. The phase-out of Germany’s last remaining nuclear reactors in the spring is set to limit power supply even further this winter, leaving it in a potential tight spot without additional support.
Reactivating coal plants risks boosting carbon dioxide emissions at a time when the country is struggling to move closer toward its climate goals. The government is in the process of building out additional liquefied natural gas infrastructure to fill the power gap, and plans to build new gas-powered plants that can later be converted to hydrogen.
The economy ministry said that Germany’s climate targets and its goal to phase out coal ideally in 2030 instead of 2038 remained unaffected by the decision. It promised to evaluate the additional carbon emissions caused by the reactivation of coal plants, and to propose compensatory remedies by next summer. The cabinet also passed a row of climate measures that should help bring the country closer to its emissions-reduction target of 65% by the end of the decade, compared to 1990-levels.
The decision for this winter affects two coal blocks from RWE’s Niederaußem plant — blocks E and F — as well as the Neurath plant’s block C. In the east of the country, LEAG is expected to bring blocks E and F of its Jaenschwalde lignite plant back online. The facilities were operational last winter, put on stand-by in July, and can now be fully reactivated until March 2024 the latest.
Separately, a decision to prolong operations of two RWE lignite units, Neurath D and E, until spring 2025 is still pending.
(Updates with economy ministry statements in second and fifth paragraphs)
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