Germany has returned to coal as the energy crisis forces the country to set aside its carbon emissions goals, Bloomberg reports. Pollution levels in the country have at times reached those of India and South Africa, the outlet reports.
Energy shortages and surging power prices have pushed Germany to boost coal use despite the country’s commitment to fighting climate change, Bloomberg reported on Thursday.
To keep the lights on, Europe’s largest economy is now burning coal at the fastest pace in at least six years, despite the government’s ambitions to phase out the fossil fuel. According to Bloomberg, Germany will be one of the few countries to increase coal imports next year.
Facing the dilemma of whether to cut carbon emissions or guarantee energy security in the country, Germany opted for the latter and reopened a number of coal plants. The International Energy Agency said in a recent report that most countries are using “a limited amount of coal power capacity” and “only in Germany, with 10 gigawatts, is the reversal at a significant scale.”
Coal consumption in the country has surged at times this month, bringing it to pollution levels comparable to those in South Africa and India, Bloomberg said, citing Electricity Maps data.
According to the Federal Statistical Office (Destatis), the country now produces more than one third of its electricity from coal-fired plants. Power generation using coal was up 13.3% in the third quarter compared to the previous year, data shows.
“Coal is coming back as a baseload generator,” founder and director of Perret Associates energy consultancy Guillaume Perret said, adding that the commodity will be less seasonal than it has been “with more coal-burning in summer, spring and autumn, as long as coal remains so much in the money versus gas and there remains a gas shortage.”
While the deficit of natural gas in Germany is one reason for reviving coal, another is the growing demand in France, where power generation was disrupted by nuclear reactor outages. This year, Germany may become a net exporter of electricity to France for the first time since at least 1990, according to Destatis.
It is likely that Germany will have to suspend the government’s planned closure of the most polluting power plants by at least nine months and keep them operational until the end of 2024, Perret said.