All the European countries returning to ‘dirty’ coal as Russia threatens to turn off the gas tap

An open-cast lignite mining is seen near the coal-fired power station Neurath in Germany.   –   Copyright INA FASSBENDER/AFP  

As Russia threatens to limit gas supplies this winter, certain European countries are scrambling to ensure their energy needs are met during the coldest time of the year.

In turn, this means backtracking on their climate pledges in favour of firing up coal power plants.

The International Energy Agency (IEA) has warned that Europe should be ready for Russia to turn off all gas exports to the region this winter. Though it acknowledges that this isn’t the most likely scenario, it could be on the table as the country seeks to gain political leverage.

Head of the IEA, Fatih Birol, told the Financial Times that measures taken by European governments had not gone far enough in ensuring energy supplies were ready for a potential cut-off. The bloc, he added, needs a contingency plan – particularly when it comes to gas.

And while the EU has been working to reduce its reliance on Russian fossil fuels, some member states warn this could mean burning more coal to bridge the energy gap.

Last week, Russia cut the capacity of the Nord Stream 1 pipeline by 60 per cent, blaming a technical issue. This is one of the main ways that the country brings its gas into Europe.

On Sunday, Germany and Austria announced an emergency restart of coal power stations. By Monday, the Netherlands had followed suit, lifting all restrictions on power stations that use the fossil fuel. Previously, they were limited to just over a third of the country’s power output.

A Uniper coal-fired power plant and a BP refinery steam beside a wind generator in Gelsenkirchen, Germany.Martin Meissner/Copyright 2020 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.

Other EU countries, including Italy, are expected to start up their old coal-fuelled power stations too as the energy crisis worsens.

This supposedly temporary increase in coal use has raised concerns about progress on the EU’s shift to less polluting power alternatives, as it is widely regarded to be the dirtiest fossil fuel.

(Source: Euronews, June 24-2022)

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