A hundred villages have been destroyed and nearly 40,000 people have had to leave their homes in the state of North Rhine-Westphalia since 1950 due to the opening and expansion of lignite mines, denounces the German Federation for the Environment and Conservation (Bund, for its acronym in German).
The climate NGO has focused on the latest policies of the German executive, which is returning to coal extraction to make up for the lack of Russian gas supply this winter.
RWE, one of the largest electricity companies in the country, completed in September to start up three coal plants that were stopped. The company justified it in order to “strengthen security of supply in Germany during the energy crisis and save natural gas in electricity generation.”
A month later, German Minister for the Economy and Climate Robert Habeck announced that two RWE lignite plants would continue to operate until March 2024, which is 15 months longer than planned. He hid in the same way: to ensure the supply of energy this winter before the gas tap from Russia was closed.
They trade a wind farm for coal
The German utility also began dismantling a small wind farm in November made up of eight turbines to enlarge a lignite coal mine.
“At the same time, climate protection remains one of the key challenges of our time. RWE supports both: In the current crisis, we are contributing to security of supply in Germany by temporarily increasing the use of our lignite power plants and therefore we are also helping to displace gas from electricity generation.
The German government – made up of social democrats, liberals and environmentalists – and RWE have agreed to bring forward the complete elimination of the use of coal from 2038 to 2030, as a way of offsetting the climate impact that their current commitment to lignite will generate in the current context energy crisis caused by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
A poll conducted this summer reveals that 56% of Germans are in favor of restarting coal plants, compared to 36% who are against. In 2019, 73% opted to end the use of coal “as soon as possible”.
World record of carbon consumption
However, the increase in the use of coal is not only in Germany. The International Energy Agency (IEA) forecasts that world consumption will reach its all-time high this year. Also, note that high levels will remain until 2025 if there are no further efforts to accelerate the energy transition.
Specifically, the IEA’s annual report on coal forecasts that its use will increase by 1.2% this year compared to last year, exceeding 8,000 million tons for the first time in a single year.
Reply to Putin
Germany suspended the certification of Nord Stream 2 in February in retaliation for the invasion, even though it could ensure the arrival of 55,000 cubic meters of gas annually. The pipeline is 1,200 kilometers long that crosses the Baltic Sea to transport gas from Russia. It was completed in September last year after an investment of about 11.350 million dollars.
When Russia invaded Ukraine last February, Germany imported more than half of its gas needs from Moscow, mainly through the Nord Stream 1 pipeline, as well as half of its coal and a third of its crude.
In June, the Russian Gazprom reduced the flow of gas through the Nord Stream by 50%, citing technical reasons, and the supply gradually decreased until it stopped completely at the end of August.
In this sense, Germany has launched to look for other providers. At the end of last month, the Qatari state company QatarEnergy used a long-term contract with the American ConocoPhillips for it to supply two million tons of liquefied natural gas (LNG) per year to the German country starting in 2026 and for more than 15 years. .