European countries are canceling the closure of coal-fired power plants and getting open-cast mines back to business to prevent a collapse in the energy system if Russia decides to stop supplying them with gas. Germany will keep the power generation fleet in the sector in reserve after the operating permits expire.
Germany is preparing the legal framework for the reactivation of the power plants running on fossil fuels which are due to be closed this year and next, according to media outlets that saw the plans. The emergency measure is aimed at offsetting the potential shortage at gas-fired power plants if Russia cuts off supply.
Unnamed sources said the government in Berlin would nevertheless remain committed to its 2030 coal phaseout deadline. At the same time, Germany is accelerating the projects for terminals for liquefied natural gas (LNG) and gas infrastructure and pushing consumers to save energy.
Oil-fired plants to be kept on standby as well
The new legislation would obligate coal plant operators to hold a high level of the fuel’s stockpiles. They would get compensation for keeping the facilities on standby through March 2024. Of note, the owners of some of the coal plants got government funding earlier as part of a scheme to accelerate the coal exit.
Italy will extend the operation of four coal-fired systems by up to two years
There is 4.3 GW in coal plant capacity already in reserve together with oil-fired power plants of 1.6 GW in total. The news reports indicated that 26 facilities with a combined 8.5 GW are on the list, of which five are still are under consideration. Five use lignite, 15 run on higher-quality coal and six on oil.
Italy recently revealed it would extend the operation of four coal-fired systems by up to two years. Earlier it determined 2025 as its coal exit date. Of note, the Group of Seven, of which Italy is a member, has just issued a statement it would eliminate almost all greenhouse gas emissions from the energy sector by 2035, aiming at complete decarbonization.
Southeastern European countries also getting coal capacities back in shape
Romania is restarting its idle coal-fired power plants to reduce dependence on gas and oil imports from Russia. Greece has decided to boost coal production by 50% this year and to operate its last coal plant Ptolemaida 5, currently under construction, until 2028. Until recently there were speculations the project could be aborted or at least switched to gas after a few years.
The European Commission estimates coal consumption will rise 5% over the next five to ten years compared to the projections from before the Russian attack on Ukraine. According to a report issued by TransitionZero, switching from coal straight to renewables is now cheaper than the transition through natural gas.
Under its sanctions against Russia, the European Union is set to ban imports of that country’s coal from August, which would boost the demand for fossil fuels from other sources and lift prices further.
Southeastern Europe is facing greater energy security threats than the rest of Europe, the Institute for Energy for South-East Europe (IENE) found. Other countries in the region that use coal are also making efforts to bolster the sector.