Ukraine-Russia crisis forces Germany to rethink coal exit

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By Reuters
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BERLIN – Germany would consider a slower exit from coal-powered energy should Russia stop gas deliveries to Europe in response to sanctions over its invasion of Ukraine, Economy Minister Robert Habeck said on Wednesday.

The remarks on public radio Deutschlandfunk are another sign of how the crisis in Ukraine has upended Germany’s planned transition toward carbon neutrality, forcing the government to reconsider its planned nuclear and coal exits.

“Short term it may be that, as a precaution and in order to be prepared for the worst, we have to keep coal-powered plants on standby and maybe even let them operate,” said Habeck in remarks that would have been unthinkable by a Greens minister a week ago.

“Pragmatism must trump every political commitment,” he added, addressing fears of blackouts and rationing of gas for heating. “The security of supplies must be safeguarded.”

In response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, Germany has stopped certification of the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline to bring Russian gas to Germany. It has also announced plans for LNG terminals and for national gas and coal reserves to be tapped in case of a dearth of gas imports.

RWE, Germany’s largest power producer, said it was open to the idea of relying on coal-fired power plants currently in reserve, reviving mothballed stations or delaying shutdowns planned for this year under Germany’s coal exit plans.

The government had planned to shut its nuclear power plants by the end of 2022 and phase out coal-fired plants by 2030, but the Ukraine crisis has forced it to consider both keeping nuclear and extending the lifespan of coal plants.

Coal accounted for 27% of power production last year while 15% came from gas.

Scholz’s government pledged after an election last year to double the share of power from renewables to 80% by the end of the decade.

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