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Germany: Coal imports increase in 2022 amid Ukraine war

February 25, 2023

Germany imported 44.4 million tons of coal last year, an 8% increase from 2021. Europe's strongest economy revived its use of coal for generating electricity amid an energy crisis.

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, Minister-President of Saarland Anke Rehlinger, ZF CEO Holger Klein and Wolfspeed CEO Gregg Lowe pose for a picture as they attend an event on the future of the decommissioned coal-fired power plant in the Western German Saarland region in Ensdorf, Germany
German Chancellor Olaf Scholz posed with politicians and executives at an event over the future of a decommissioned coal-fired power plant in Ensdorf, Germany, in the western Saarland region earlier this monthImage: Thilo Schmuelgen/REUTERS

Germany increased its coal import by 8% last year, as it tried to cope with a shortage in the country's energy supply after Berlin stopped relying on Russian oil and gas due to Moscow's invasion of Ukraine.

The country imported 44.4 million tons of coal in 2022, the Association of Coal Importers (VDKI) said in an evaluation covered by the German newspaper Bild on Saturday.

Where did the coal come from?

Russia remained the top supplier of coal, despite sanctions imposed by the European Union in August banning the import of Russian coal to bloc members. However, Russian supplies stood at 13 million tons, which is a 37% decline from the year before.

In second place came the US, with 9.4 million tons, a 32% increase from the year before.

Shipments arriving from South Africa and Colombia saw significant increases, standing at 3.9 million tons (278%) and 7.2 million tons (210%), respectively, according to the VDKI.

Reviving coal as a source of energy

Germany says it wants to be carbon neutral by 2045. In 2020, it announced it would stop burning the climate killer, gradually phasing out its coal-fired plants by 2038.

However, sanctions imposed on Russia last year due to its invasion of Ukraine shook Germany's energy supply, causing a return to and increase in the use of coal.

In 2022, the government moved to bring around a dozen coal plants back on the grid and extended the lifespan of several that were meant to be shuttered.

Coal is releases more carbon dioxide than natural gas when burnt, which means it is more harmful to the environment.

Climate activists have strongly opposed the German government's decision to resort to coal.

One particular flashpoint was the village of Lützerath in the state of North Rhine-Westphalia (NRW). Hundreds of protesters faced off with police in the village in January, as security strove to clear protests and pave the way for Germany's energy giant RWE to mine for coal there.

Police in Germany clear coal mine climate camp

rmt/ar (dpa, Reuters)

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