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Germany reactivates coal-fired power plant to save gas

August 22, 2022

Germany plans to phase out coal-fired power generation by 2038, but now a second plant will be back in service next week under a new regulation aimed at saving gas.

Heyden coal-fired power plant in Petershagen, near Hanover
The Heyden coal-fired power plant, one of the most powerful in Germany, will return to service from August 29 until the end of April 2023Image: Friso Gentsch/dpa/picture alliance

Germany is restarting another coal-fired reserve power plant next week as the country tries to save up its gas supplies for the coming winter.

The Heyden plant in Petershagen, near Hanover in northern Germany, is scheduled to return into service from August 29 until the end of April, operator Uniper said on Monday.

With a capacity of 875 megawatts, Heyden is one of the most powerful coal-fired power plants in Germany. It started operation in 1987.

Germany plans to phase out coal-fired power generation by 2038 at the latest. However, the war in Ukraine and the resulting disruptions to the energy market are causing some plants to be temporary reactivated.

Since July 14, a regulation has allowed coal-fired power plants from the so-called grid reserve to come fully back online to help the country save gas. Plants on the reserve only produce electricity when this is necessary to ensure grid stability.

Coal instead of gas

At the beginning of August, the Mehrum plant in Hohenhameln, owned by the Czech energy group EPH, became the first coal-fired plan to return to service.

According to the German business newspaper Handelsblatt, the Essen-based company Steag had also announced that it intended to bring reserve coal-fired power plants back onto the market.

More coal-fired plants that had been placed in reserve are set to restart in the coming weeks. The government says this will allow gas storage facilities to be filled as Germany copes with reduced flows from Russia.

According to the Federal Network Agency, the country's energy regulator, gas accounted for 9.8% of electricity generation in July. However, gas makes up the largest share of home heating systems in Germany.

Germany revives coal-fired power plants

No need to panic

Due to previous allegedly necessary repairs on the Nord Stream 1 pipeline, Gazprom had drastically reduced gas deliveries to Germany in July.

On August 21, however, German Economy Minister Robert Habeck urged the public not to panic about the prospect of gas shortages during the colder months. If households and industry reduce their usage by 15-20%, "then we have a really good chance of getting through the winter," he said.

And even if Russia were to cut supplies entirely, there would be no situation where zero gas would reach Germany, the minister assured.

According to Habeck, Norway and the Netherlands are providing additional gas supplies and new liquefied natural gas (LNG) terminals should be operational at the turn of the year.

dh/rt (dpa, German media)