Many European countries turn to coal power to deal with energy shortages


Xinhua News Agency reporter

In recent years, many European countries have vigorously developed new energy, and the proportion of coal power in the energy structure has been shrinking. However, with the sharp reduction of natural gas supply in Russia, Germany, Austria, Greece, the Netherlands and other European countries have recently announced that they will reopen coal power plants or take measures to support coal power.

Analysts believe that European countries are helpless to switch to coal power. Russia is the EU’s largest supplier of natural gas and crude oil. After the outbreak of the Ukraine crisis, the EU continued to escalate sanctions against Russia, exacerbating energy shortages in European countries.

The German Federal Ministry of Economics and Climate Protection issued a statement on the 19th of this month saying that in response to the sharp reduction in Russian natural gas supply, Germany will take a series of emergency response measures, including restricting the use of natural gas for power generation and switching to more use of coal power.

German Deputy Chancellor and Minister of Economy and Climate Protection Habeck said: “It is painful, but it is a necessary measure to reduce natural gas consumption.” He said that in order to avoid difficulties in heating in winter, Germany must not only save the use of natural gas, but also It is also necessary to put the backup coal power station into operation as soon as possible.

Analysts believe that the German government’s move is contrary to its previous plan to phase out coal power. Under the current federal government’s coalition agreement, Germany will “ideally” bring forward the phase-out of coal power from 2038 to 2030. Harbeck’s Green Party advocates a halt to coal mining and calls for the closure of all existing coal plants.

Coincidentally, the Austrian government also announced the reopening of a coal power plant in the southern city of Merach on the 19th of this month to deal with energy shortages. Previously, the Austrian government had proposed to fully realize clean energy supply by 2030. The Merach coal power plant was shut down in the spring of 2020 and was the last coal power plant in the country.

The Greek government also announced a few days ago that in order to ensure stable energy supply, the country will increase its coal production capacity by 50% by 2024. The share of coal power in Greece’s energy mix has dropped sharply to about 10% last year, from 53% in 2011. As the energy crisis continues and natural gas prices soar, the Greek government has decided to suspend the closure of more coal power plants and delay the phase-out of coal power from 2025 to 2028.

In the Netherlands, the consumption of coal-fired power has been decreasing in recent years, and currently there are only three coal-fired power plants in the country. In 2021, the Dutch government requires the three coal plants to actually generate no more than 35% of their generating capacity. However, the Dutch government announced a few days ago that the three coal-fired power plants have been allowed to run at full capacity immediately in order to alleviate natural gas shortages and avoid heating difficulties in winter.

Coal-fired power in Poland accounts for about 70%, the highest among EU countries. At the same time, one third of Polish households use coal for heating. Poland banned imports of Russian coal in April, a coal shortage and price spike followed. Recently, the Polish government announced the introduction of a coal subsidy policy for ordinary households, and imported coal from Colombia, Australia and South Africa to make up for the gap of more than 8 million tons of coal caused by the ban on importing Russian coal.

The European Commission’s spokesman for climate action and energy, Tim McPhee, recently acknowledged that due to new changes in the European energy landscape, EU member states’ energy structure and related plans will be adjusted, including the restart of some coal production capacity.

Analysts believe that the switch to coal power will disrupt the new energy development plans of European countries and is bound to have a negative impact on the EU’s carbon neutrality goal by 2050. (Note-taking writer: Wang Xiangjiang; participating reporters: Zhu Sheng, Chen Chen, Yu Shuaishuai, Liu Xinyu)