FRANKFURT, Nov 21 (Reuters) – Germany’s hard coal importers want the Berlin government to prolong the operation of hard coal-to-power generation plants enlisted in last year’s energy crisis beyond the targeted end of March 2024, the VDKi lobby said on Tuesday.
Conflicts in Ukraine and the Middle East leave European and German consumers vulnerable to energy supply shocks, which makes liquefied natural gas (LNG), an alternative to coal burning for electricity, a volatile commodity, VKDi said.
“There is no supply security without power plants burning hard coal,” said chairman Alexander Bethe. “The relevant law for readying standby plants must be extended.”
VDKi, at a press conference in Berlin, said the fleet of regularly working hard coal power stations – totalling 18 gigawatts (GW) – was well-prepared for winter, plugging gaps from Germany’s complete nuclear exit in April.
The government in 2022 temporarily allowed 6 GW of idled hard coal plants, including some operated by Steag and Uniper (UN01.DE), to participate in the market should gas supply fall short of requirements.
German winter power demand at a given date can amount to up to 80 GW.
Bethe said that global coal markets provided reliable shipment routes and diversity of origins.
Looking further ahead, Bethe said Germany would have a hard time building new gas-fired plants, favoured for their lower carbon emissions than coal, to replace the 18 GW of coal capacity in coming years.
The economy ministry is due by the end of the year to issue its strategy for a relevant tender.
The plants are needed to provide stable energy when intermittent wind and solar plants do not deliver.
The scheme is expected to face challenges such as low investment appetite and lengthy approval and construction times.
VDKi said separately national hard coal imports this year will likely have fallen to around 34 million tonnes from 44.6 million in 2022.
Reporting by Vera Eckert, editing by Chizu Nomiyama
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