Germany has reverted to burning coal and will keep two nuclear plants slated for closure running to accommodate the soaring price of energy, according to a statement from German Economic Minister Robert Habeck.
The country imported roughly 55% of its gas from Russia prior to the invasion of Ukraine and has reduced its dependence to 35% due to sanctions on Russian resources. The country originally planned to shut down its three remaining nuclear plants in a bid to shift to renewable energy in line with the country’s environmental goals.
The two remaining nuclear plants, Isar 2 and Neckarwestheim, will remain open to provide the shortfall in electricity, which has been stretched to the limit.
“The drought in the summer has reduced water levels in rivers and lakes, which weakens hydropower in neighboring countries and also makes it difficult to transport coal to the power plants that we have to use due to the tense gas situation,” Habeck said. “The major crises — war and climate crises — have a very concrete impact. So we have a number of uncertainty factors, and the summer has made this even worse with the drought.”
In his speech, Habeck pointed out that the capacity for hydroelectricity in France has been cut back due to local droughts.
“Because of all these risks, we cannot rely on the fact that in the event of grid bottlenecks in our neighboring countries, there will be enough power plants available to stabilize our power grid in the short term,” he said.
Germany’s nuclear plants were initially planned for decommissioning by former Chancellor Angela Merkel after the 2011 nuclear meltdown in Fukushima, Japan. However, the cut-off of natural gas shipments by Russia via the Nord Stream 1 pipeline over the weekend has turned Germany’s plans upside down.
Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov said that Russia will only resume gas transport if the West collectively agrees to ease its economic sanctions on Russia.
“Problems with gas supply arose because of the sanctions imposed on our country by Western states, including Germany and Britain,” Peskov said. “We see incessant attempts to shift responsibility and blame onto us. We categorically reject this and insist that the collective West — in this case, the European Union, Canada, and the United Kingdom — is to blame for the fact that the situation has reached the point where it is now.”
Despite the West’s continued reliance on Russian energy, the G7 nations have continued to double down on sanctions against Russia, most notably last week when the finance ministers of the G7 states committed to a plan to impose price caps on Russian oil.