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Nuclear, coal, LNG: 'no taboos' in Germany's energy about-face

Commodities Feb 27, 2022 04:59PM ET
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© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: A woman cleans the inside of an exhibit representing a natural gas pipeline at the booth of Nord Stream during final preparations at the "Hannover Messe" industrial trade fair in Hannover April 15, 2007. REUTERS/Christian Charisius/File Photo

By Christoph Steitz, Riham Alkousaa and Maria Sheahan

BERLIN (Reuters) -Germany signalled a U-turn in key energy policies on Sunday, floating the possibility of extending the life-spans of coal and even nuclear plants to cut dependency on Russian gas, part of a broad political rethink following Moscow's invasion of Ukraine.

Europe's top economy has been under pressure from other Western nations to become less dependent on Russian gas, but its plans to phase out coal-fired power plants by 2030 and to shut its nuclear power plants by end-2022 have left it with few options.

In a landmark speech on Sunday, Chancellor Olaf Scholz spelled out a more radical path to ensure Germany will be able to meet rising energy supply and diversify away from Russian gas, which accounts for half of Germany's energy needs.

"The events of the past few days have shown us that responsible, forward-looking energy policy is decisive not only for our economy and the environment. It is also decisive for our security," Scholz told lawmakers in a special Bundestag session called to address the Ukraine crisis.

"We must change course to overcome our dependence on imports from individual energy suppliers," he said.

This will include building two liquefied natural gas (LNG) terminals, one in Brunsbuettel and one in Wilhelmshaven, and raising its natural gas reserves.

These plans will likely be a boon for Germany's top utility RWE, which has been backing efforts by German LNG Terminal, a joint venture of Gasunie, Oiltanking GmbH and Vopak LNG Holding, to build an LNG terminal in Brunsbuettel.

Separately, the German government has asked RWE's smaller rival Uniper to revive plans to build an LNG terminal in Wilhelmshaven, Handelsblatt newspaper reported on Sunday, after the company scrapped such plans in late 2020.

Uniper was not immediately available for comment and the Economy Ministry declined to comment.

Earlier this week Germany halted the $11 billion Nord Stream 2 Baltic Sea gas pipeline project, Europe's most divisive energy project after Russia formally recognised two breakaway regions in eastern Ukraine.

Russia has since invaded Ukraine, prompting the West to slap further sanctions on Moscow and making the energy supply issue even more pressing.

The revamp of energy priorities comes alongside a paradigm shift in German foreign and defence policy, with Scholz also announcing a dramatic hike in military spending.

'NO TABOOS'

Germany last year embarked on an ambitious shift towards solar and wind power and Greens member Oliver Krischer on Sunday said a draft law to ensure renewables will account for 100% of Germany's power supply by 2035 already was completed.

Germany will also increase the volume of natural gas in its storage facilities by 2 billion cubic metres (bcm) via long-term options and will buy additional natural gas on world markets in coordination with the European Union, Scholz said.

Germany has 24 bcm of underground caverns of gas storage, which are currently around 30% full, according to industry group Gas Infrastructure Europe data.

Germany is also weighing whether to extend the life-span of its remaining nuclear power plants as a way to secure the country's energy supply, the country's economy minister Robert Habeck, a member of the Greens, said.

Asked by German broadcaster ARD whether he could imagine allowing nuclear plants to run longer than planned under Germany's exit plan, which foresees shutting the country's three remaining plants by the end of 2022, he said: "It is part of my ministry's tasks to answer this question ... I would not reject it on ideological grounds."

Isar 2, Emsland and Neckarwestheim 2 are the last remaining nuclear plants producing power in Germany after the country a decade ago decided to phase out the fuel in the wake of Japan's Fukushima disaster.

The three plants are owned by German energy firms E.ON, RWE and EnBW, respectively.

Habeck also said letting coal-fired power plants to run longer than planned was an option, throwing into doubt Germany's ambitious exit from coal, which is planned for 2030.

"There are no taboos on deliberations," Habeck said, adding that it was Germany's goal to ultimately choose which country will supply its energy.

"Being able to choose also means, in case of doubt, saying goodbye to Russian gas, coal or oil. And should Russia wilfully cut off this supply, then the decision has of course been made," Habeck said.

"In that case they will never be rebuilt. I think the Kremlin knows that, too."

Nuclear, coal, LNG: 'no taboos' in Germany's energy about-face
 

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Comments (10)
William Smith
William Smith Feb 27, 2022 8:33PM ET
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Duh!!!!!
bret again
bret again Feb 27, 2022 7:26PM ET
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there were also a few very influential germans getting rich, what about nordstream 1 and the beloruse blue lines?
peter neal
peter neal Feb 27, 2022 7:20PM ET
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We just had the coldest winter ever and energy prices / electric up 40 percent. It's ********the Economy.
Rodolfo Barraco
Rodolfo Barraco Feb 27, 2022 6:08PM ET
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Listening to greta lead us to the bring of a nuclear ww3. Good to hear the west is listening to reason. Is no time for fanatical green ambitions. The west is about to face the worst recession, inflation and geopolitical crisis in 100 years,
Don Getty
Don Getty Feb 27, 2022 6:08PM ET
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not really, I suspect Vegas odd on Putin surviving the until April 1st are very low - good bet to take!
Benjamin USA
Benjamin USA Feb 27, 2022 6:08PM ET
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This is gretas fault? You are too much I cant take it lmaoo
Ac Tektrader
Ac Tektrader Feb 27, 2022 5:36PM ET
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at the time Germany made those po!icy decisions, the Russian dictatorship seemed to be at least sane. and for Germans it seemed the most efficient way to transition to a Green economy...with the help of its economic partners I'm sure they will find away out..
Edward Miller
Edward Miller Feb 27, 2022 11:26AM ET
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Germany tried to make the transition to environmental friendly energy too quickly by mothballing its nuke plants, and a too-hasty reliance on green energy and Russian gas.  The Green transition is necessary and good, but it has to come more gradually. Things that took many decades to develop cannot be ended/converted, overnight. Especially a complicated infrastructure like energy.
John Avenetti
John Avenetti Feb 27, 2022 11:13AM ET
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LOL! yeah they get a massive portion like 60% from Russia. I'm sure they'll get that done soon. Russia could turn that place into dust by turning off the pipes. people are so uniformed.
Benjamin USA
Benjamin USA Feb 27, 2022 11:13AM ET
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Someone is a big simp for russian D
John Avenetti
John Avenetti Feb 27, 2022 11:13AM ET
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Oh look! Thank you! Case in point!!!
dee money
dee money Feb 27, 2022 11:13AM ET
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Ben, you watch too much cnn. stfu when grown men are talking
GK KB
GK KB Feb 27, 2022 11:01AM ET
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Renewables are NOT the answer This country alone has enough oil deposits and shale for 100s of years matbe 1000s Nyclear power is also an option to renewables. Maybe these hivt idiots shoukd impeach Trump for bring right about everything he did
Jeffery Boggs
Jeffery Boggs Feb 27, 2022 10:01AM ET
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They should have listened to President Trump. Buy American LNG
Benjamin USA
Benjamin USA Feb 27, 2022 10:01AM ET
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Every president has told them that obviously not just your simp daddy
Philip aparantus
Philip aparantus Feb 27, 2022 7:23AM ET
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i was thinking the same the business case for renewals becomes greater, the problem we need rare earths for that, guess were they coming from, russia is 3th largest producer, china 1sth. currently green is not as green we think it is, call for low tech green (solar mirrors for example)
William Smith
William Smith Feb 27, 2022 7:23AM ET
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Phillip, so true. The people giving thumbs down are highly uninformed.
 
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