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Coal Energy Rides to Germany’s Rescue

Coal Energy Rides to Germany’s Rescue #Coal #Energy #Rides #Germanys #Rescue Welcome to Lopoid

German Economy Minister Robert Habeck gives a statement on the topics of energy and security of supply, Berlin, June 23.

Photo:

CHRISTIAN MANG/REUTERS

In Germany even the energy emergencies are well-organized. So it is that Berlin Thursday moved into the second of three phases in what is meant to be an orderly procedure for managing fuel shortages this winter. They hope.

Economy and Climate Minister

Robert Habeck

raised the alert level amid a reduction in natural gas shipments from Russia. Moscow says a mechanical part is stranded in Canada due to Western sanctions imposed after

Vladimir Putin’s

Ukraine invasion, but everyone else knows better.

Germany is vulnerable because for years it pursued energy policies that left the economy dependent on Russia for 55% of its natural-gas imports, 34% of its oil, and 26% of its coal before the Ukraine war. These three fuels combined account for more than 75% of Germany’s energy consumption, and Russian natural gas is by far the hardest to replace.

Mr. Habeck is bringing coal-fired power plants back online so that natural gas can be diverted to industrial users and the winter stockpile. This is politically embarrassing for the minister, who hails from the environmentalist Green Party. It’s also only partly effective against Germany’s energy woes.

Coal works for electricity generation, but Germany uses most of its natural gas for other things. Gas-fired community heating systems can’t easily be converted to coal. Manufacturers in industries such as steel and chemicals worry their equipment will be destroyed if they lose gas supply even for a short period. Gas rationing is part of Berlin’s emergency plan, but prioritizing among competing users is proving to be an imponderable.

Mr. Habeck has made some progress lining up alternative gas supplies. A new law streamlines regulation for three new terminals to import liquefied natural gas. For this winter Mr. Habeck plans to rent floating terminals. Yet someone also must build pipelines to carry gas from those terminals to the national grid, and Germany needs to line up LNG suppliers.

That leaves storage. Berlin is stockpiling gas after its negligence last year left storage facilities barely more than 70% full at the start of the cold season. As of this week, Germany’s storage is filled to almost 60% of its capacity compared to less than 40% at this time last year, and the government hopes to reach 90% in the next three months. But this will be harder if Russian supplies are interrupted.

There is always another way: nuclear. Nuclear supplies 6% of Germany’s electricity. That proportion is down from 12% last year because in late 2021 Berlin shut down another three reactors, leaving only three online. The nuclear phase-out imposed by former Chancellor

Angela Merkel

in 2011 counts as one of the worst energy-security mistakes of all time. But for now, keeping the three remaining reactors running past their planned closure at the end of this year could reduce the power gap that needs to be filled by imported coal.

Yet Chancellor

Olaf Scholz

and Mr. Habeck are resisting. Nuclear power is politically controversial in Germany, especially among the granola-niks in the Green Party. Some politicians are brave enough to call for an extension of nuclear power, notably Finance Minister

Christian Lindner

of the Free Democratic Party and state premier of Bavaria

Markus Söder

of the conservative CSU.

Mr. Habeck still seems to believe he can burn only a little more coal and Germany will arrive at a renewable nirvana when wind and solar meet the country’s power needs. The same Mr. Habeck declared immediately after the Ukraine invasion that there would be “no taboos” in Germany’s debate about energy security. Apparently there still is one, however, and it could prove costly for Europe’s largest economy.

Wonder Land: Like other world leaders who leaned into lockdowns, Joe Biden and the Democratic Party are now realizing how complicated the private economy actually is, and how easy it is to wreck it. Images: AP/Shutterstock/Bloomberg/Zuma Press Composite: Mark Kelly

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