March 28, 2011 / 2:09 PM / 8 years ago

German nuclear backlash means more coal power: EU

BERLIN (Reuters) - The political backlash against nuclear power in Germany means power generation will rely more on coal-fired plants, Europe’s Energy Commissioner said on Monday.

Chimneys of the coal-fired power station are pictured in Mannheim November 8, 2010. REUTERS/Alex Domanski

“There will be more coal power ... with consequences for CO2 emissions,” Guenther Oettinger, a former premier of Baden-Wuerttemberg state where Chancellor Angela Merkel’s conservatives lost power on Sunday, told Reuters in Berlin.

“That will have to be taken into account,” he added.

Oettinger’s remarks, after a meeting in the German capital to promote the Nabucoo gas pipeline project, came as EU power and carbon emissions rights prices climbed steeply as the poll outcome was interpreted by energy traders as bullish.

Nuclear power is carbon-free and more fossil fuels-based power supply would be needed to make up for shortfalls, should the conservatives shut more reactors in the wake of events in Japan, which German voters made clear they preferred.

Prices of European carbon permits, which polluters must hold under EU environmental laws, climbed well over one percent to above 17 euros and German forward power hit its highest level since late 2008.

Oettinger at the meeting urged Germany to ensure that its increasingly likely moves to exit nuclear power faster than anticipated should be paralleled by efforts in other countries where he said nuclear might stay around for decades.

“Germany must negotiate nuclear safety across Europe as it does not stop at the borders,” he said.

Since the Japan crisis when Germany took seven old plants out of action for at least three months, French and Czech nuclear suppliers have been cashing in on the situation, providing more power into Germany.

Other European energy goals which now needed promoting more urgently were pan-European power grids and diversified gas supplies, said Oettinger.

His commission backs Nabucco, a pipeline project to bring Caspian region gas to Europe, bypassing Russia.

He said Germany’s gas strategy drawn up by Merkel last autumn had not extolled the merits of gas. “The big four utilities probably talked too much about nuclear,” he said.

Stefan Judisch, chief executive of RWE Supply & Trading, agreed on the coal scenario for baseload power mentioned by Oettinger.

Baseload is around-the-clock electricity for basic industrial and household supply where nuclear features strongly.

“If we were to replace (nuclear) baseload with renewable energies and gas, then electricity would become expensive,” he told reporters.

Judisch also said that gas prices should pick up in the coming months, having paused after a brief post-Japan rally as it became clear Japan did not immediately have enough gas-fired plants to absorb much more.

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