Germany sticks to 2030 coal exit target amid energy worries

FILE - A car approaches a gas station in Frankfurt, Germany, June 1, 2022. People across the world are confronted with higher fuel prices as the war in Ukraine and lagging output from producing nations drive prices higher. Drivers are looking at the numbers on the gas pump and rethinking their habits and finances, pushing some to walk, bike or use public transport. (AP Photo/Michael Probst, File) (Michael Probst, Copyright 2022 The Associated Press. All rights reserved)

BERLIN – The German government said Monday that it remains committed to its goal of phasing out coal as a power source by 2030, despite deepening worries about a cut in Russia's gas supplies.

Russia's Gazprom announced last week that it was sharply reducing supplies through the Nord Stream 1 pipeline to Germany for what it said were technical reasons. The German government says the move appears to be politically motivated.

On Sunday, Economy Minister Robert Habeck said that Germany will try to compensate for the move by allowing increased burning of coal, a more polluting fossil fuel. Habeck, a member of the Green party, said the move was “bitter” but “simply necessary” to lower gas usage.

In neighboring Netherlands, the government announced Monday that despite Moscow’s reductions in gas deliveries to parts of Europe it still plans to close the biggest Dutch natural gas field in 2023 or 2024, but will also allow coal-fired power stations to operate at full capacity again in order to conserve gas that would otherwise be burned to produce electricity.

The government had been phasing out the use of coal to generate power by allowing coal-fired power stations to operate only to a maximum 35% of their capacity in recent years as it aims to transition to sustainable energy to cut greenhouse gas emissions.

“The risk of doing nothing is too great,” Climate and Energy Minister Rob Jetten said as he also appealed to businesses and homeowners to do all they can now to rein in their use of gas to prevent shortages in the winter.

The Netherlands has in recent years been sharply reducing the amount of gas it pumps from the gas field in the northern province of Groningen because thousands of homes there have been damaged by earthquakes caused by the extraction.

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz's three-party government committed itself to completing the phaseout of coal “ideally” by 2030 in its coalition agreement late last year.

Asked Monday to what extent that is now in doubt, a spokesman for Habeck's ministry said that “the coal exit in 2030 isn't wobbling at all.”

“It is more important than ever that it happens in 2030 — that is our view,” spokesman Stephan Gabriel Haufe told reporters in Berlin.