Sunday

25th Sep 2022

Germany expects coal supply problems this winter

  • Low water levels have reduced domestic shipping to the point that Germany's temporary shift to coal may be disrupted (Photo: Andras Bankuti, HVG)
Listen to article

The German government is worried low river levels may hamper coal supply for power plants this autumn and winter, adding to the deepening energy crisis in the country.

According to a document entitled "energy supply assessment", seen by Reuters, low water levels have reduced domestic shipping to the point that Germany's temporary shift to coal may be disrupted.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Become an expert on Europe

Get instant access to all articles — and 20 years of archives. 14-day free trial.

... or subscribe as a group

In early August, the German government announced it would reopen previously-mothballed coal power plants to make up for lower gas supply from Russia.

The country is also preparing to restart the more polluting brown coal-fired power plants that have been shut down as part of the country's move to cleaner sources of energy.

But record drought has reduced water levels in nearly all European rivers, and coal power plants dependent on river transport for their supply of coal.

One-third of Germany's coal imports come up the River Rhine, but barge loads have been reduced by three-quarters to avoid running aground this summer.

Although recent rains have alleviated the situation temporarily, weather conditions are expected to remain drier than usual, and according to the paper, supply problems will continue into the winter.

For the second time in a matter of days, a ship transporting coal to Germany ran aground in the River Waal on Wednesday, which connects the Dutch river port Nijmegen to the German hinterland.

On Wednesday, Germany's government approved legislation to prioritise trains carrying mineral-oil products and hard coal for power generators, a move described by economy minister Robert Habeck as "necessary" to ensure security of supply this winter.

But according to the document which was drawn up by the economy ministry, "high demand and scarce transport capacity in rail freight are leading to a challenging situation in coal and oil logistics."

Added to this is a lack of skilled labour in the coal sector.

According to the German Trade Union Confederation, coal generates about a quarter of Germany's electricity, down from half at the turn of the century, and employs around 25,000 people directly.

Coal suppliers have cut back their workforce in line with Germany's phasing-out of coal by 2038.

To alleviate the situation, some, including finance minister Christian Lindner of the liberal Free Democrats, have called to extend the lifetime of the country's last three nuclear power plants, which provide 11 percent of the country's electricity needs and are set to close in December this year.

But so far, this has been ruled out by economy minister Habeck.

Column

'Emancipatory catastrophism' — why being scared works wonders

The current energy crisis is a good example of "emancipatory catastrophism" — the idea that humanity only moves forward out of fear for a catastrophe. Sometimes one needs a looming disaster to change what should have been changed long ago.

News in Brief

  1. More Russians now crossing Finnish land border
  2. Report: EU to propose €584bn energy grid upgrade plan
  3. Morocco snubs Left MEPs probing asylum-seeker deaths
  4. EU urges calm after Putin's nuclear threat
  5. Council of Europe rejects Ukraine 'at gunpoint' referendums
  6. Lithuania raises army alert level after Russia's military call-up
  7. Finland 'closely monitoring' new Russian mobilisation
  8. Flights out of Moscow sell out after Putin mobilisation order

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. UNESDA - Soft Drinks EuropeCall for EU action – SMEs in the beverage industry call for fairer access to recycled material
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic prime ministers: “We will deepen co-operation on defence”
  3. EFBWW – EFBH – FETBBConstruction workers can check wages and working conditions in 36 countries
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic and Canadian ministers join forces to combat harmful content online
  5. European Centre for Press and Media FreedomEuropean Anti-SLAPP Conference 2022
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic ministers write to EU about new food labelling

Latest News

  1. Ireland joins EU hawks on Russia, as outrage spreads
  2. Editor's weekly digest: Plea for support edition
  3. Investors in renewables face uncertainty due to EU profits cap
  4. How to apply the Nuremberg model for Russian war crimes
  5. 'No big fish left' for further EU sanctions on Russians
  6. Meloni's likely win will not necessarily strengthen Orbán
  7. France latest EU member to step up government spending in 2023
  8. Big Tech now edges out Big Energy in EU lobbying

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us