Germany Restarts Coal-Fired Generation to Support Winter Power Supply

Government officials in Germany have approved a plan to bring some shuttered coal-fired power plants back online in an effort to avoid energy shortages this winter.

Cabinet members on Oct. 4 said they would support putting on-reserve lignite-fired power plants back online from now until the end of March 2024. It’s another move related to Russia’s ongoing invasion of Ukraine, which resulted in a drop in imports of Russian natural gas to Germany and much of Europe over the past two years.

Germany reactivated some coal-fired power plants last year, and extended their operating lifespans. Government data showed about 1.9 GWh of electricity was generated from coal last winter. Officials said they will study coal-fired generation this winter and decide next summer on plans to offset increases in carbon emissions. They also said they remain committed to a phase-out of all coal-fired generation in the country by 2030.

The country’s economic ministry said several coal-fired units operated by energy companies RWE and LEAG at their Niederaußem, Neurath, and Jaenschwalde power plants will be temporarily reactivated until March of next year to provide more security for Germany’s electricity supply. Those units also operated last winter due to the reduced supply of natural gas from Russia, and were on standby this past summer.

Germany’s electricity supply also has been reduced as the country completed its phase-out of nuclear power earlier this year, when the country’s three remaining nuclear facilities were taken offline. The move ended more than 60 years of nuclear power generation in Germany.

Germany is not the only European nation restarting coal-fired units to provide more energy security. The UK restarted some coal-fired generation this past summer to cope with rising demand for power during a heat wave. France also restarted a coal-fired power station last winter.

Darrell Proctor is a senior associate editor for POWER (@POWERmagazine).

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