TOP STORIES Germany says it will restart coal-fired power plants to...

Germany says it will restart coal-fired power plants to save natural gas

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BERLIN — Germany will restart coal-fired power plants to conserve natural gas, the country’s economy minister said Sunday amid fears of a looming supply shortage after Russia cut gas supplies to Europe this week.

The move was part of a series of measures, including new incentives for companies to burn less natural gas announced by Germany as Europe steps up to deal with cuts in energy supplies from Russia.

As European countries imposed sanctions to punish Moscow after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in February, Russia has responded by cutting off gas supplies to several European countries. Last week, Russian energy giant Gazprom also cut flows through the Nord Stream pipeline, an important undersea link that brings gas directly to Germany.

Gazprom blamed maintenance problems for the cuts, but European leaders called the move a political tactic by President Vladimir. V. Putin of Russia.

“The situation is serious,” Economy Minister Robert Habeck, who is also Germany’s vice-chancellor, said on Sunday. enough to get through the winter. These include reopening coal-fired power plants that were shut down to cut carbon emissions, though the statement did not specify how many plants would be affected.

“It is bittersweet, but in this situation it is simply necessary to reduce gas consumption,” said Mr. Habek, a member of the Green Environmentalists Party. “Gas storage tanks should be filled by winter. This is our top priority.”

For decades, Germany has been heavily dependent on energy imports from Russia. Last year, Russian imports accounted for 55 percent of natural gas supplies to the country. But after Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine on February 24, Berlin began buying gas from Norway, the United States and the United Arab Emirates, cutting its purchases from Russia by about 20 percent.

However, the government insists Russian gas will be needed to ensure that storage tanks are at least 90 percent full by November, in line with a law passed earlier this year to ensure sufficient supplies of natural gas, which mainly used for heating and manufacturing. . A third of Germany’s homes are heated by natural gas, while it is used for only 15 percent of all electricity generation.

A law is expected to be passed next month to allow a return to the use of coal in electricity generation. By the end of the summer, a model should be in place that will allow companies to auction gas as part of an effort to encourage Germany’s industrial sector to reduce dependence on fuel.

Germany’s powerful industrial lobby, the Federation of German Industry, said last week that companies were already switching to coal as part of an effort to secure more natural gas for storage. Many are also looking for alternative, more sustainable sources of energy, the report said, stressing that such a transition takes time.

The German government recently urged citizens to reduce their energy consumption in light of the tight supply situation.

“Obviously, Putin’s strategy is to make us insecure, raise prices and divide us,” Mr. Khabek said. “We will not allow this to happen. We will defend decisively, accurately and thoughtfully.”

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