And suddenly people are talking about the value of coal again

The Putin war triggered a shock that also makes us think about the success of the energy transition. Prime Minister Woidke wants to postpone the phase-out of coal because of his dependence on Russian gas – and he’s probably right, says Gunnar Schupelius.

The war against Ukraine has led to the discussion in Germany again about lignite and hard coal as energy sources.

On the day the war broke out, Brandenburg’s Prime Minister Woidke (SPD) questioned the phase-out of coal-fired power generation, which is planned by 2030. Germany could be “blackmailed” because of its dependence on Russian gas.

And Federal Minister of Economics Habeck (Greens) also brought up the black gold. A hard coal reserve for the power plants must be built up.

Germany stopped mining hard coal in 2018 and has since been dependent on imports, 50 percent of which come from Russia.

The sudden return to coal comes as a surprise. The Greens declared the raw material taboo 20 years ago because of the high CO2 emissions during combustion.

Prime Minister Woidke agreed to the gradual shutdown of the coal-fired power plants, which generate up to 80 percent of the electrical energy in eastern Germany.

Wants to stop the coal exit: Brandenburg's Prime Minister Dietmar Woidke (SPD) (Photo: Bernd Settnik / dpa)
Wants to stop the coal exit: Brandenburg’s Prime Minister Dietmar Woidke (SPD) (Photo: Bernd Settnik / dpa)

He was also one of the sponsors of a new pipeline that is to transport Russian gas from the Baltic Sea to the south, and he was delighted when last year the refinery in Schwedt was taken over by the Russian state-owned company Rosneft, from which all of East Germany was supplied with oil and petrol is supplied.

So he knew exactly how dependent we were on Moscow even before the start of the war.

Read all of Gunnar Schupelius’ columns here

The fact that Woidke and Habeck are suddenly talking about coal shows how great the need is. The war increases their concern. Behind it, however, the failed energy transition comes to light.

It is becoming apparent that the coal-fired power plants will have to be replaced by gas-fired power plants, which was not originally planned.

The original plan was to store electrical energy in such a way that electricity would be available even when it was dark and calm when the wind turbines and solar panels were unable to deliver.

The aim was to generate hydrogen with wind power and then convert it into electricity when the wind was calm. But the corresponding systems are not progressing, they will never replace coal by 2030.

“In addition to legal restrictions”, there are still many “technical” and “cost-intensive challenges” to be overcome, according to the Sibylline in the “Energy Strategy 2040” of the Brandenburg state government.

The Putin war is forcing us to think, to review the energy transition. Now it is openly discussed again whether the coal is really dispensable. This is an important step, because nothing works without electricity.

Only in the Berlin Senate does this reflection not start, which switched over the entire generation of electricity and district heating in the capital to natural gas and prefers not to ask where it comes from.

Is Gunnar Schupelius right? Call: 030/2591 73153 or email: [email protected]