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Germany: First hard coal “market returnee” power plant ready to replace gas in supply crisis

3 August 2022
Electricity
energynomics

The first retired hard coal power plant from Germany’s capacity reserve is ready to restart operations in order to replace natural gas plants in the context of the country’s supply crisis of the fossil fuel caused by Russia’s war on Ukraine. The coal plant Mehrum in Lower Saxony, mothballed at the end of 2021 and owned by Czech company EPH, so far would be the only registered “market returnee”, the country’s federal grid agency (BNetzA) told news agency dpa in an article carried by Zeit Online, according to CLEW. The plant operators told dpa they expect a swift reconnection to the grid of the 690 megawatts (MW) plant that is capable of supplying up to half a million households with electricity. Several other energy companies had said they plan to revamp coal-fired power production to replace gas. Gas-fired plants covered about 15 percent of Germany’s power generation in the first half of 2022, while the bulk of gas consumption goes into heat production and industry processes.

Finance minister Christian Lindner from the pro-business Free Democrats (FDP) last week proposed to fully end power production with gas to save the fossil fuel for other uses, an idea rejected as impracticable by the Green Party-led economy and climate ministry. “There are systemically relevant gas plants,” the ministry said, calling the need for gas a “reality of the electricity system that has to be recognised” if blackouts are to be avoided.

Germany’s government adopted a regulation which allows operators of certain hard coal plants to temporarily reactivate their units to help reduce natural gas consumption in the power sector. Coal plants, for example those which had successfully applied in phase-out tenders under the country’s coal exit scheme to stop producing electricity by 2022 or 2023, can thus return to the market. Due to lower costs these help push gas out of the market.

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