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Europe wants coal: Austria, Netherlands, switch on old coal plants, Poland pays for coal to homes

In an emergency everyone wants coal

Just like that — Europe is hitting the panic button. Thank the Russians for demanding rubles for their gas and threatening supply. Not only has Germany decided to rescue old coal plants, but so has Austria, which had gone blissfully “coal free” two years ago. How long did that fairytale last? In the Netherlands coal power plants were forced for years to run at only 35% capacity by government ruling, but now, suddenly, full tilt is fine. Sweden and Denmark have both issued an “early warning” to flag potential energy shortages.

In Poland, energy prices are so expensive that three weeks ago the government told people to go and collect wood from forests to keep their homes warm. Last week they the government said it would pay a large part of the cost of buying three tons of coal for each household. It’s that bad.

Much of the EU rely on Russian gas for about 40% of their supplies. The Austrians have storage sites for gas so large they can hold an entire years worth, but they are only 39% full and they want to double that before November.

Germany is now calling this “an attack” by Putin to sow chaos in slashing Europe’s energy supplies.

Gazprom said last week it would reduce supplies of the fuel to Germany via the pipeline due to delayed repairs, but the German government has called the decision ‘political’ amid the widespread European support for Ukraine following Putin‘s invasion.

Germany has also mandated the filling of gas reserves to 90 per cent ahead of the European winter, to hedge against a further reduction in supply. ‘When we go into the winter with half full gas stores and the taps are turned off then we are talking about a difficult economic crisis in Germany,’ Habeck said. Currently, Germany’s gas storage capacity is just under 60 percent full.

Meanwhile Russia is calling it a blockade to stop deliveries to Kalingrad. The Lithuanian Prime Minister says it is not a blockade, only “sanctions”.
Major russian gas pipelines to europe.

Russian gas pipelines to Europe (Click to enlarge) |  Samuel Bailey

That’s a lot of countries suddenly looking for alternative energy:

Europe turns back to coal as Russia cuts gas supplies

EU Observer

Russian state-owned energy giant Gazprom has turned off supplies to several EU countries for refusing to pay for gas in roubles — including Poland, Romania, Bulgaria, Finland, and the Netherlands.

But Germany, the Czech Republic, Italy, Austria, and Slovakia have also faced reduced gas delivery volumes, raising fears over gas security supply.

Things people thought were set in stone can be turned on a dime:

Dutch lift coal curbs as Russia gas supplies drop

The Netherlands said Monday it will lift all restrictions on coal-fired power stations to counter a drop in gas supplies from Russia….

“The cabinet has decided to immediately withdraw the restriction on production for coal-fired power stations from 2002 to 2024,” Jetten told a news conference in The Hague.czech. “This means that coal-fired power stations can run at full capacity again instead of the maximum of 35 percent.”

The Austrian greens were very pleased Austria was only the second European country to go “Coal free” in March 2020. It was “historic” at the time.

Austria returns to coal era

State-controlled Verbund AG, Austria’s biggest utility and most valuable company, was ordered late Sunday to prepare its mothballed Mellach coal-fired station for operation. The plant, 200 kilometers (124 miles) south of Vienna, was shut two years ago as Austria became only the second European country to eliminate coal entirely from its electricity grid.

Meanwhile, in Poland, a reminder of how desperate the situation really is:

Poles told to gather firewood amid soaring energy prices

June 3rd, Euronews

Authorities in Poland reminded citizens on Friday they can forage firewood from forests to keep warm amid soaring energy costs in the country. The government said it was taking steps to make it easier for people to collect firewood in an effort to ease the pressure created by sky-rocketing energy bills and shortages of coal.

Opponents of the ruling ‘Law and Justice party’ said the comments showed it had not got a grip on the wider economy. Inflation in Poland has climbed to 14 per cent in recent weeks, with fuel prices hitting 8 zlotys ($1.87) per litre. The average monthly wage in Poland is around 7110 zlotys ($1800).

Poland will subsidise coal for homes

The Polish government wants to subsidise coal for household and housing cooperatives amid rising coal prices and shortages caused by the Russian coal embargo, Energy Minister Anna Moskwa announced Tuesday.

Under the government’s plan, consumers can buy up to three tonnes of coal per household for a maximum price of 996 zlotys (€214). The sellers that keep the price at this level will receive up to 750 zlotys (€161) in compensation.

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