Germany eyes keeping coal plants open longer as backup

Germany is looking at keeping coal plants open longer in order to ensure energy security, the government said Thursday, as Russia's invasion of Ukraine sparked fears over power deliveries.

Germany's Economy and Climate Minister Robert Habeck speaks in Berlin on Wednesday.
Germany's Economic Affairs and Climate Action Minister Robert Habeck speaks in Berlin on Wednesday. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Fabian Sommer

The government said it will bring down gas usage in power generation by “possibly keeping coal-fired power plants as a security standby for longer”.

Decommissioning the coal plants “can be suspended until further notice”, they added, noting that “ideally” they would still stick to the goal of phasing out coal usage by 2030.

Germany’s coalition of Social Democrats, ecologist Greens and liberal FDP had eyed winding down coal usage in the coming years as it sought to make the country climate-neutral by 2045.

But the energy transition had been dependent on temporarily bumping up gas imports while infrastructure for renewables was being ramped up.

The Russian war in Ukraine has however drastically changed its best-laid plans.

READ ALSO: ‘Whatever it takes’: Calls grow for painful German blockade of Russian gas

With 55 percent of Germany’s gas imports stemming from Russia, reliance on Russian energy has been exposed as an Achilles’ heel as Western allies scramble to penalise Vladimir Putin for his war on Ukraine.

Germany’s economy minister of the Green party, Robert Habeck, has even been forced to look around the world to purchase coal to bulk up the nation’s energy reserves.

The pressure has been increasing as calls grow louder for the West to impose a complete embargo on Russian energy imports but Germany has so far been reluctant, citing the potential impact on Europe’s top economy.

Putin on Wednesday upped the ante by demanding payments for gas in rubles, something that Germany has said is a breach of contracts.

With US President Joe Biden joining a series of summits in Brussels on Thursday, the subject of energy security is expected to be broached by allies.

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German housing co-op slammed for restricting access to tenants’ hot water

A housing cooperative in Saxony has taken the drastic energy- saving measure of restricting access to hot water over fears that Russia could turn off the gas taps in Germany this winter.

German housing co-op slammed for restricting access to tenants' hot water

In a Facebook post that swiftly went viral on Tuesday, the Dippoldiswalde Housing Cooperative in Saxony announced that it would be restricting tenants’ access to hot water at certain times of the day. 

“The prices for gas and electricity continue to rise,” the co-op wrote. “As already announced at the members’ meeting, we now have to save for the winter.”

The notice included a list of times of day (including in the mornings and afternoons on weekdays) that no hot water would be available in their buildings. On Saturdays, tenants will only be able to take a warm shower in the late afternoon, the co-op said.

It also announced that heating would be switched off entirely until September.

Within hours, the post was being widely shared on social media channels, with one user describing it as “fathomless cheek” and another describing it as “crazy”. 

Speaking to the Funke Media Group on Wednesday, Housing Minister Klara Geywitz (SPD) slammed the decision to manipulate the hot water supply as unlawful.

“Simply turning off the hot water temporarily is illegal,” she said. 

The decision to limit tenants’ access to hot showers and heating also drew consternation from ministers in the Saxony state government and from tenants’ rights associations.

The Germans Tenants’ Association pointed out that issues with the hot water would entitle the tenants to a rent reduction.

Since July 1st, just under half of Dippoldiswalde’s 600 apartments have been affected by the new rules. These are the 300 flats that are heated primarily with gas, WDR reported. 


Housing Minister Klara Geywitz (SPD) at an SPD event

Housing Minister Klara Geywitz (SPD) at an SPD event in Berlin.

‘Life is expensive’

The security of Germany’s gas supply has been a growing issue in recent months as the country scrambles to save enough energy to tide it through winter.

Despite the efforts of the Economy Ministry to rapidly diversify the energy supply, Europe’s largest economy still receives around a third of its gas from Russia, which the government fears will put the country in a weak position when the cooler months roll around. 

President Vladimir Putin has already reduced or cut off the gas supply to several EU nations in retaliation for its sanctions over the Ukraine war. 

In Germany, gas deliveries through the Nord Stream 1 pipeline have been docked by 60 percent. 

Economics Minister Robert Habeck (Greens) has launched a campaign to encourage people to save energy voluntarily, for example by taking fewer showers in summer. 

The German Network Agency has also called for legal minimum temperatures for tenants to be reduced in light of the current crisis. 


Defending the plans to restrict hot water in the Saxony properties, Dippoldiswalde housing co-op board member Falk Kühn-Meisegeier said the move was to ward off the price hikes for next year. 

“It’s not a matter of bullying the tenants, but rather of adjusting to what we might otherwise not be able to pay next year,” Kühn-Meisegeier told WDR. “We want tenants to get through this crisis well. Life is expensive enough as it is.”

The co-op says it also wants to “generate electricity on our roofs” and pass it on to the members without a levy or charge.

“That would be a real relief,” the housing association said. “No one in Berlin or at the ‘E.on’s of this world’ wants that”.