The Austrian government has decided to use coal power to produce electricity in case curtailed Russian gas supply creates an energy emergency in the nation.
“The federal government and the energy group VERBUND have agreed to convert the Mellach (Styria) district heating power plant, which is currently shut down, so that in an emergency it can once again produce electricity from coal (not gas),” Chancellor Karl Nehammer’s office said in a statement, according to Reuters.
Mellach was Austria’s last coal-fired power plant. It was converted to a gas plant and put on standby in 2020.
At present, Austria’s gas storage facilities are filled at 39 percent. This number needs to go up to 80 percent by October 2022 to ensure that the country is ready for the heating season. The most important thing right now is to make sure that “acute gas demand” is met and “gas supplies for the winter” are created, the chancellor said, according to The Local.
The plant operator estimates it would take some time to implement necessary changes to the Mellach plant and buy adequate coal needed for combustion. The government plans to make the Mellach plant operational in a few months, the Ministry of Energy told local outlet Der Standard.
The Austrian government’s decision comes as Moscow has been delivering just half the gas it promised. Russia’s state-controlled energy firm Gazprom recently informed Austria’s OMV energy company that it would receive “reduced delivery volumes,” the company said to AFP.
At present, there are no supply worries as the lost volume can be “replaced by storage volumes” as well as “volumes from the spot market,” OMV stated.
Austria gets 80 percent of its gas from Moscow. In May, the Austrian government unveiled an emergency plan that will be activated if Russia cuts off gas supply.
In the short term, the plan focuses on expanding Austria’s existing gas supply ties with Norway as well as opening discussions with companies in Qatar and North Korea. Long-term measures involve using non-Russian gas to increase strategic gas reserves by 7.4 terawatt-hours (TWh) to 20 TWh.
Germany has also decided to fire up its coal power to cut down dependence on Russian gas. On June 14, Gazprom announced it would reduce natural gas flows to Germany via the Nord Stream pipeline by about 60 percent.
On June 19, the German economy ministry stated that idle coal plants are being upgraded so that they can soon begin generating electricity. Emergency laws will allow for using coal to generate electricity for a limited time until March 2024.
Germany’s decision to use coal plants comes even though the country passed a law in 2020 to phase out coal use by 2038.