Germany: Germany’s two houses of parliament made the painfully inevitable decision to restart its coal-fired power plants to cope with the gas shortage fuelled by the ongoing Russia-Ukraine crisis, amid fears of gas shortages as Russia curbs capacity. The final approval was granted by the upper house of parliament on Friday, along with a list of strategic measures to boost the expansion of renewable energies- partly as a matter of public security and setting a minimum proportion of land for windfarm use by each federal state.
The government’s environmentalist economics minister Robert Habeck has described this urgent move as “painful but necessary”, instating the support of leading Greens in the coalition government, who argue that this is the only available short-term option to resolve a looming gas crisis.
Though the government has approved this far from an environment-friendly decision, green campaigners describe the potential return to a high-polluting energy resource as a compromise gone too far, which places Germany in the precarious position of missing even its most basic climate targets.
Klaus Ernst, the head of the parliamentary committee on climate protection and conservation, likened the decision to fire up coal plants to inviting a “climate policy disaster”.
Germany had established plans to phase out coal by 2030 before the Ukraine conflict broke out, as coal is more carbon-intensive than gas. However, the ongoing Russia-Ukraine crisis reduced Russia’s gas flow, supplying even less gas to Germany, one of its most active importers.
The recent measures are taken in effect to lay off Russian gas and become self-sufficient, making it less vulnerable to Russian blackmail and dependence. Energy reserves need to be secured before winter so that the country can sustain the cold using coal to produce electricity instead of gas, which in turn, is used for a wide variety of industrial processes.
Of course, benefitting parties of this deal, coal industry bosses like the Federation of German Industries (BDI) called the decision a smart move, executed “better late than never”. It said, “Politics and the economy must urgently use the summer months to save gas, to ensure the storage facilities are full ahead of the coming heating season. Otherwise, we face a grave gas shortage with a sharp decline in industrial production. In this tense situation, every single day and every cubic metre of gas we can save counts.”
German households have already begun reserving energy as much as possible, reducing costs of street lighting, maintaining water temperatures in swimming pools and rationing hot water supplies to tenants.