The invasion of Ukraine changes German policy. Berlin has just half-opened, very slightly, a door that we thought had been triple-locked, that of nuclear energy. The Minister for the Economy, Energy and the Climate, also an environmentalist Robert Habeck, surprised by announcing that his ministry “studied” the possibility of extending the life of the last three power plants in operation across the Rhine. These plants are supposed to close at the end of the year. “There are no taboos”, assures the minister, who says not to affix “ideological veto” to this idea.
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However, the probability that the life of these plants will be extended still seems slim. Berlin points to the security problems of sites whose closure would now be too advanced. This weekend, the operators of these three power plants, EON, RWE and EnBW, also expressed doubts.
The gas is used a lot for the chemical industry
Another reason given: this energy could not “compensate for bottlenecks” linked to a possible reduction in Russian gas deliveries. Admittedly, Germany imports 55% of its gas from Russia. But this energy is mainly used to heat households and enters the industrial process of sectors such as chemicals. Uses that nuclear could not compensate for, at least not in the short term. “Germany can do without Russian gas for this winter and this summer”, Judge Robert Habeck. “And nuclear power would not help us for the winter of 2022-2023” he adds.
→ ANALYSIS. Germany wants to free itself from its dependence on Russian gas
In the short term, Berlin is instead seeking to “diversify its gas purchases for next winter”, to impose reserves of gas and coal and to build two terminals of liquefied natural gas, to supply itself near the United States. Robert Habeck also says he is confident that Russia will keep its gas delivery commitments.
The “energy of freedom”
Will the desire to reduce dependence on Russian gas also give a boost to coal consumption that Germany wants to abandon? “ideally” in 2030? Calls to this effect are increasing and, if Robert Habeck says ” to study “ the idea, there again he is not very optimistic.
“Leaving the power plants running longer means longer dependence on Russian coal”, he explains. For Berlin, the long-term solution therefore remains more than ever a massive development of renewable energies, qualified even this weekend as“freedom energy”.