Germany will have to increase the burning of coal for electricity production, because of the cut in gas supplies from Russia, economy minister Robert Habeck announced, despite his Greem party's policy favoring green energy and eliminating fossil fuel.
Russian gas company Gazprom announced last week that it was reducing supplies through the North Stream 1 pipeline supposedly for technical reasons, saying there had been delays in the repair of compressor turbines by the German company Siemens Energy.
Germany has come under intense criticism in the past, particularly from the United States, for its reliance on cheap Russian energy sources, which Washington has always seen as a security risk for Europe.
To reduce gas consumption, less gas must be used to generate electricity. Coal-fired power plants will have to be used more instead, the Economy Ministry said in a statement.
Habeck also admitted more gas had to be pumped into storage facilities. Otherwise, it will be really tight in winter. Currently gas storage facilities in Germany are around 57% full.
Habeck felt disappointed about the need to appeal to more coal to produce electricity, but described the current situation as serious. ”That's bitter, but it's simply necessary in this situation to lower gas usage,'' he said. The coalition government has made it its goal to make German energy production coal-free by 2030.
Habeck has proposed putting a cap on domestic heating, and the government also wants to set up a gas auction model this summer to prop the saving of gas by industry. Under the scheme, industrial customers who can do without gas will reduce their consumption in exchange for financial compensation.
The gas saved will then be put into storage.
The government is also planning an additional credit line of €15 billion via the state bank KfW to enable the German gas market area manager Trading Hub Europe to buy gas to fill the storage facilities.
Meanwhile another junior party in the government coalition, the neoliberal Free Democrats (FDP), has also called for Germany to reconsider its 2017 ban on unconventional fracking amid the supply problems.
Fracking is a process for extracting oil and gas from shale rock using chemicals and pressure considered by many environmentalists as extremely damaging to nature.
But FDP's parliamentary director Torsten Herbst said openly that such objections were no longer relevant. As scientific studies show, under modern security standards fracking causes no relevant environmental damage, he underlined.
Referring to the fact that Germany intends to import fracking gas from the US, he said that those in favor of the move could not oppose the promotion of safe fracking in Germany.