Germany to burn coal for winter heat as Russia squeezes gas supply

Germany must reduce natural gas consumption and increase the burning of coal in order to help fill gas storage facilities for next winter, German Economy Minister Robert Habeck announced on Sunday.

“The situation is serious,” Habeck said in a statement. “We are therefore continuing to strengthen precautions and taking additional measures to reduce gas consumption. This means that gas consumption must fall further, but more gas must be put into the storage facilities, otherwise things will really get tight in winter.”

Germany is heavily reliant on Moscow’s gas to power its homes and heavy industry, but has managed to whittle Moscow’s share of its imports down to 35% from 55% before the start of the war in Ukraine.

Habeck said security of supply was currently guaranteed in spite of a “worsened situation on the gas market” in recent days. Soaring prices were “(Russian President Vladimir) Putin’s strategy to unsettle us, drive up prices and divide us,” Habeck said.

“We will not allow that. We are fighting back decisively, precisely and thoughtfully,” he said.

Despite Germany’s plans to exit coal-fueled energy production, Habeck, who is a Green Party politician in the center-left ruling coalition, announced a return to “coal-fired power plants for a transitional period” in order to reduce gas consumption for electricity production.

“We are setting up a gas substitute reserve on call. “That’s bitter, but it’s almost necessary in this situation to reduce gas consumption,” Habeck said.

In March, German lawmakers passed a gas storage act stipulating gas storage facilities must be almost completely full at the start of the heating period in order to get through the winter safely.

“Filling levels have been specified for this purpose: By October 1, the storage facilities must be 80% full, by November 1, 90%, and on February 1, still 40%,” according to the law.

Currently at about 56%, gas storage tanks are filled to an above-average level in Germany compared with previous years in spite of storage levels having been at an all-time low at the beginning of the year.