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Germany shuts 7 coal power stations after winter ends

March 31, 2024

The power plants were either restarted or had their shutdowns delayed to cope with a shortfall of gas supplies during winter. Germany has weaned itself of Russian natural gas since Moscow's invasion of Ukraine.

The Grevenbroich coal-fired power plant in Germany
Germany faced criticism for extending the lives of coal and nuclear power plantsImage: Jochen Tack/picture alliance

Seven coal-fired power stations in Germany were shut down over Easter, power generators RWE and LEAG said on Sunday.

The government took five plants out of mothballs to cope with a shortfall in gas supplies through the winter as Europe's largest economy sought to reduce its dependency on Russian gas.

Two more were allowed to continue operating after their scheduled shutdown dates.

Which plants have been taken offline?

Five of the plants were located in the Rheinish mining district of Western Germany, near the city of Cologne. 

They included the Grevenbroich-Neurath and Bergheim-Niederaussem sites.

The move means that some 2,100 megawatts (MW) of lignite capacity will be decommissioned, operator RWE said.

Two other plants at Jänschwalde in the eastern state of Brandenburg, near the capital Berlin, were also shut after being brought back online recently.

Why did Germany keep coal plants open?

Germany's plans to reduce its reliance on coal to tackle climate change were dealt a blow by Russia's invasion of Ukraine in February 2022.

Germany and other European countries cut their dependence on Russian gas in the months following the war, which helped spike the price of energy.

To lessen the impact, the German government decided to extend the life of some coal-fired plants and restart other closed plants temporarily.

Berlin also delayed the closures of several nuclear power plants as a contingency measure. The last three nuclear plants were shut in April last year.

Now that the 2023/4 winter season has ended, Germany's grid operator said it does not foresee any impairment in the security of power supply as a result of the coal plant shutdowns.

Germany's Economy Ministry is legally obliged to review the increase in greenhouse gas emissions from its early decision to delay the closures.

By the end of June, the ministry was required to propose measures to offset the additional emissions.

Decision hailed by Green Party politician

"In view of the worsening climate crisis, the closure of coal-fired power plants is an important measure to reduce greenhouse gases," said Green Party lawmaker Kathrin Henneberger in a statement.

She said the closures were "a great success for climate justice and is happening in the knowledge of
the historical and global responsibility for achieving our climate goals."

With material from DPA news agency