Germany begins slow move away from Russian gas after Ukraine invasion

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In order to end its depedence on Russian gas, Germany may need to keep coal power plants in reserve, like this one in Mannheim

The invasion of Ukraine has thrown Germany’s problematic dependence on Russian gas into stark relief, forcing Europe’s largest economy to urgently reshape its energy mix.

In a previously unthinkable step for Chancellor Olaf Scholz’s young government, the crisis even has politicians considering delaying Germany’s planned exit from nuclear energy and coal to keep the lights on.

The decision represents a massive and expensive reversal for the government which has banked on Russia to secure its energy needs over the past two decades. 

While energy supplies have largely been exempted from the West’s response, policymakers still needed to “prepare for a scenario” where Russia “stops gas deliveries”, Finance Minister Christian Lindner said on Tuesday.

Initially, Germany hopes to substitute Russian supplies with larger deliveries of liquefied natural gas (LNG), a super-chilled form of the fuel, which can be imported by sea from producers such as the United States or Qatar.

But Germany lacks the infrastructure to absorb huge new supplies, with no LNG terminals along its coast where tankers can dock.

“Germany must build its own LNG terminals with the necessary connections and infrastructure,” the economy ministry concluded last week.

In the northern town of Stade, on the Elbe, the construction process for one project is about to get under way.

Meanwhile, in Wilmershaven, on the North Sea coast, the Belgian group TES is also planning to build a facility.

– Climate objectives –

Germany’s governing coalition of the Social Democrats, the Greens and the liberal FDP, in office since December, had promised an earlier exit from coal in 2030 and maintained Angela Merkel’s decision to exit nuclear by the end of 2022.

“There are no more taboos,” Economy and Climate Minister Robert Habeck declared recently. “In the short term, we may need to hold coal power plants in reserve out of caution,” he said.

The government would, however, face significant challenges were it to pursue the nuclear option. “You cannot just extend a nuclear plant you have decided to close like that,” energy expert Pittel said.

fcz-sea/mfp/pvh/spm

Originally published as Germany begins slow move away from Russian gas after Ukraine invasion


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