The European Union countries have resorted to coal, which they have described as “dirty” for years and reduced its use, as a precaution against the worsening energy crisis with the Russian-Ukrainian war.
European countries, which had been implementing environmental and climate change policies for many years and moving away from coal, had to change this approach with the start of the Russo-Ukrainian war and stop the flow of affordable natural gas from Russia.
The energy crisis, which moved to a new dimension with the war, also caused a decrease in environmental popular pressure against coal in European countries.
According to the annual “Coal 2022” report of the International Energy Agency (IEA), global coal consumption increased by 1.2% in 2022 compared to the previous year, while in the European Union the increase reached 6.5%.
Thus, the consumption of coal by the European Union countries, which reached 449 million tons in 2021, reached 478 million tons in 2022. The increase in the demand for coal used in the production of electricity was effective in this rise.
Total coal production in the European Union countries, which reached 332 million tons in 2021, increased by 7.3 percent in 2022 to 357 million tons.
The downward trend was reflected in coal demand
The share of thermal power plants, which provided 40 percent of electricity production in the European Union in 1990, has shown a 30-year downward trend. The share of coal in electricity generation decreased to 13 percent in 2020.
Before the war, about half of the 324 thermal power plants in Europe were being prepared for complete shutdown by 2030.
According to data from the research center Bruegel, electricity generation from coal-fired power plants in the European Union and the United Kingdom decreased by 40 percent in the period 2015-2020.
As the demand for coal increases in the energy crisis, it is estimated that the share of coal in electricity production will reach 20 percent in 2022.
Coal and mining activities have recently gained momentum in some European countries seeking various measures against the energy crisis. While production has been increased from existing coal mines in European Union countries, some countries such as the United Kingdom and Poland have also prepared new coal mine projects.
Countries such as Germany, France, England, the Netherlands, Spain, Italy, Greece, Hungary and Austria have taken steps to extend the life of coal-fired power plants, restart power plants that have been shut down, and increase current. Produce.
Germany announced earlier that it aims to shut down coal-fired power plants in 2038 and, by concluding an agreement with some power plant operators in 2021, has pushed that date back to 2030.
Lowering the target date for ending coal use from 2038 to 2030 was among the key election promises of the German coalition government last year.
After the Russo-Ukrainian War triggered an energy crisis in Europe, Germany, unable to access natural gas from Russia, decided to return to the domestic coal industry while working to secure alternative energy supplies.
In order to reduce dependence on Russia after the Ukraine war, the German government decided to continue using coal-fired power plants, which had previously announced their closure.
The German government has taken action to reconnect some coal stations to the network, extending the life of some stations that were due to close.
In this context, Germany decided to keep coal-fired power plants with a production capacity of more than 6 GWh as emergency reserves.
German energy company RWE has announced that it will reopen 3 lignite units at Neurath and NiederauBem.
At the request of the French state, GazelEnerji, the country’s electricity generation and distribution company, has brought the Moselle coal-fired power plant back into service. The power plant, which has a total electricity generation capacity of 600 megawatts, will continue to operate for some time due to the energy crisis.
In Italy, the government has made preparations to postpone the closure of 6 coal-fired power plants, which are expected to close in 2025, and to reopen the decommissioned power plant in case of emergency.
In Spain, energy company Endesa has been asked to delay the closure of the As Portes coal plant.
The United Kingdom has extended the operating period of some coal-fired power plants.
Contracts were signed with Drax and EDF to extend the operation period of two different coal-fired power plants.
An agreement has also been reached between the government and Uniper that the Ratcliffe coal station, which will close in 2022, will continue to operate.
The energy crisis in Europe has changed coal investment and the approach to it, which in the past had been put off by the reaction of environmentalists in England.
Also, the UK has approved a new coal mine project for the first time in 30 years. The mine that will be produced from the project in Cumbria, northwest of the country, will be used to produce steel and not to generate electricity.
Although Poland, one of the largest producers and consumers of coal in the European Union, has made plans to transition to clean energy, it increased its consumption of coal after the Russo-Ukrainian war.
Poland, which has stopped buying natural gas and coal from Russia, has increased its imports of coal from Colombia, Kazakhstan, South Africa, Australia and Indonesia.
While the government decided to suspend the ban on the use of lignite for heating homes, it was decided to increase the production of thermal coal from the mines.
In Austria, the government has asked Verbund to make a coal plant, which went out of business in 2020, ready for use again in the event of supply bottlenecks or outright outages.
In order to temporarily contribute to securing the electricity supply in the country, it was decided to postpone the scheduled closing dates for 3 power stations, two of which are coal-fired.
The government decided to increase lignite production by 50 percent. Due to the current energy crisis, it has been decided to keep 7 coal-fired power plants longer than planned.
The government has abandoned its commitment to phase out coal by 2025.
It was decided to increase coal mining and restore the offline lignite power plant at Matra.
The Netherlands has raised the production cap on coal-fired power plants, which in the past had to operate at less than 35 percent of capacity. In the country, coal plants were allowed to produce at full capacity.
In Romania, the closure of the Rovinari and Turceni thermal power plants, which will be decommissioned by the end of 2022, has been postponed. The government has reneged on its commitment to phase out coal altogether.
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