Hard coal needed to keep German lights on, lobby says

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  • Coal plants backed supply in H1 in cold, calm weather
  • Renewables are preferred power source but hinge on weather
  • Feeds into supply security debate as election nears
  • Coal plants are gradually closed under climate legislation

FRANKFURT, July 28 (Reuters) - German electricity generation volumes from hard coal rose by more than a third in the first six months of 2021, showing the energy source plays a vital role in keeping the lights on, importers group VDKi said on Wednesday.

Output was up 35.6% year-on-year at 25 terawatt hours (TWh) in the first half of 2021 as coal compensated for the effects of cold weather and lower wind supply compared with a year earlier, it said in a statement. read more

When weather patterns cause shortfalls of green power on the transport grids, coal, gas and nuclear plants provide the remainder, in the absence of meaningful storage.

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As a general election nears in Germany, debate is focused on the need for supply security and affordability to be reconciled with climate and energy targets. read more

"Hard coal contributed significantly to the security of supply and underscored its important role in backing up the energy transition," VDKi said.

Industry statistics last month showed renewable generation in the first half of the year fell 8.1% and conventional power production rose 19.7% year-on-year because of the weather. read more

Generally, coal is intentionally driven out of the power supply mix, while carbon-free wind and solar power, when available, are given priority on transport grids.

Germany is also removing existing hard coal capacity, fuelled by imports, from the market via subsidised closure tenders, while a different scheme with fixed compensations applies to domestically-mined brown coal-to-power stations.

Brown coal results in more emissions than energy-dense hard coal.

VDKi has warned of a "crash transformation" away from fossil fuels.

The energy regulator on Monday opened a fourth round of auctions for hard coal closures after the first three produced permits to shut 8,435 megawatt (MW) of capacity.

VDki was critical, saying the programme had attracted some less polluting, modern plants, as well as older capacity.

VDKi in 2021 expects its sixth consecutive year of falling imports, citing lower demand from the steel sector because of the coronavirus crisis and price competition from gas and renewables.

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Reporting by Vera Eckert, editing by Barbara Lewis

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