Germany has an energy supply problem. Because one thing is missing above all: gas. So that there is no threat of a cold winter, the Union and FDP in particular are in favor of extending the nuclear power plants. A point on which the Greens show little willingness to compromise. Habeck could come under pressure.
Germany has an energy problem and it is getting more and more serious. On Thursday morning, Climate and Economics Minister Robert Habeck (Greens) announced the second stage of the gas emergency plan. At least now it’s official: “From now on, gas is a scarce commodity,” said Habeck.
In fact, it could get tight in winter at the latest. The stores are fuller than they were in previous years. Nevertheless, as of now, the stock is probably not enough for the winter. If no solution can be found in the coming weeks, the Germans face not only a cold but also an expensive winter. After all, if the demand is higher than the supply, the price usually goes up as well. Very simple economy.
The Union is therefore proposing to extend the operating times of the remaining nuclear power plants, which are actually supposed to be shut down by December 31st. However, the Greens and large parts of the SPD reject this. Instead, they rely on coal and want to expand renewable energies as quickly as possible. But is that enough? No, fears not only the opposition, but also parts of the traffic light, such as members of the FDP parliamentary group. An agreement is currently not in sight.
The federal government should actually implement two decisions that are so important for the Greens in the coming years: push ahead with the phase-out of coal by 2030 and shut down all remaining nuclear power plants by December 31 of this year.
But the energy crisis has changed the situation. There is less and less cheap energy from Russia and soon it will no longer be available. Not an easy situation for the Greens. Although they are vehemently committed to the expansion of renewable energies, these processes take time. They therefore keep reminding us that Germany would be in a different situation if previous governments had done the preparatory work here.
The fact is: electricity and gas now have to come from somewhere else. Habeck wants to start up lignite-fired power plants in reserve again. A bitter pill for the Greens, after all, it’s CO2 emissions. And yet the Greens prefer coal to nuclear power. Because phasing out nuclear energy is part of the party’s DNA.
An advantage that Habeck can point to when it comes to coal: the power plants can be started up with a relatively short lead time and used selectively. So there is no “comeback” of coal, it just acts as a “bridge”. It’s not so easy with nuclear power. Extending the service life would involve a great deal of effort and could result in the reactors running five years longer. For an extension of the service life, new fuel rods would have to be purchased, which usually have a service life of five years.
The problem: The coal power will not be enough for the winter. Because a large part of the heating in Germany does not run electrically. In the end, the main thing missing is gas for heat. Ironically, record amounts of electricity have been generated in the past few months. In May it was four terawatt hours.
In a current hour that the Union had demanded in the Bundestag (you wrote in the present, wasn’t the debate yet?), its parliamentary group leader Jens Spahn only indirectly addressed this high consumption. But Habeck will know exactly what the CDU politician was alluding to. Spahn asked why the federal government was only now using the coal reserves. After all, there was already the possibility in March. Huge amounts of gas could have been saved and stored for the winter. Habeck will deliberately not go into this in his answer.
The reason is obvious: around three weeks ago there was an election in North Rhine-Westphalia. The federal state in which the Greens campaigned to phase out coal. It is quite possible that the party would not have done so well if Habeck had previously increased lignite reserves. So gas was used.
The FDP sees its coalition partner as responsible here. “It cannot be that we have unnecessarily used gas, knowing that it will be scarce this winter,” criticized the Secretary General of the Liberals, Bijan Djir-Sarai, to FOCUS Online.
FDP party leader Lindner has also made it clear several times that he is open to a debate about extending the nuclear power plants. In a tweet this week, the finance minister pointed out that three CO2-free nuclear power plants are currently operating in Germany. “This option must be reconsidered,” writes Lindner.
Even in the SPD, one or the other agrees to the proposal behind closed doors. Chancellor Olaf Scholz even said in an interview with the “Münchner Merkur”: Nobody would reject a one to two-year extension if it were possible without any problems. The problem is the fuel rods. From the FDP, however, it is said that you can get them delivered without any problems if you have to.
In fact, an extension of nuclear power would be associated with high hurdles, but it is not impossible. For example, the systems could be run in stretching mode, i.e. no longer at full capacity. To do this, less electricity would have to be produced in the summer and autumn of 2022 so that the fuel elements burn down more slowly. Reserves could still be available in the first quarter of 2023. However, this would require more electricity to come from other sources or be saved in the coming months.
A new report commissioned by the Bavarian Ministry of the Environment should pay into the account of nuclear power advocates. It states that the service life of the “Isar 2” power plant can be extended without any problems The last security check had “not resulted in any new findings that would give rise to concerns that security-related deficits would arise when a new security check was carried out”.
Without new fuel elements, it would therefore be possible to continue operating “Isar 2” until August 2023 – initially in normal continued operation for 80 days, then for a further three months by “relocating” the existing fuel elements.
How does the traffic light and especially Habeck deal with the growing pressure? When the topic came up in the coalition committee on Wednesday evening, it was reported that there was no real discussion about the running times of the piles. Instead, Habeck is said to have confirmed why the Greens continue to reject an extension of nuclear power. The SPD leadership is said to have agreed to this and the FDP representatives did not object further, FOCUS Online learned from participants.
It is said again and again that one did not want to argue. So the question remains open. The next coalition committee meets in September. Possibly the willingness to engage in discussion is greater once the cool autumn has set in.