Russian gas: Austria to reactivate coal-fired power plant following Gazprom cuts
Austria will receive less gas for the fourth consecutive day, Russia’s Gazprom announced on Sunday, prompting an emergency government meeting to signal a return to coal the country phased out in 2020.
Austria is highly dependent on Russian gas imports. With the supply of fossil fuel from the Kremlin becoming more and more difficult, the Austrian government has put in place numerous initiatives to ensure that gas storage levels are high as winter approaches.
“Austria has an extremely high storage capacity compared to other countries”Chancellor Karl Nehammer said after a crisis meeting on Sunday (June 19).
“We can store an entire year’s consumption in our storage facilities. So far, storage has gone as planned”, he added. Austria has the second largest gas storage capacity in the EU per capita.
In order to fill these reserves before next winter, the Austrian government decided on a series of measures after an emergency meeting held late on Sunday.
A third of non-Russian gas
An amount of 6.6 billion euros will be allocated to the purchase of gas for a total of around 20 terawatt hours (TWh), of which around a third must come from a country other than Russia. To force the storage sites owned by Gazprom to fill up, storage capacities will be approached “use-it-or-loose-it” [sic]that is, other companies will be allowed to use the site if Gazprom does not, according to a written statement sent to reporters late Sunday.
More importantly, the coal-fired power plant in Mellach, Styria, which was shut down, will be reactivated and can run on coal in an emergency. The coal-fired power plant has a capacity of 832 MW of electricity and 400 MW of heat to be used for district heating.
Austria had succeeded in phasing out coal in April 2020 with the closure of the plant. For the moment, its use is reserved for an emergency situation. Germany, it aims to produce additional electricity from coal in order to save gas for next winter.
Voices are already being raised to do the same in Austria.
“In my opinion, the coal-fired power plant in Mellach should not only be used in an emergency, but also as a preventive measure to reduce gas consumption in electricity production”has tweeted energy analyst Christoph Dolna-Gruber.
Gas flow monitoring
The Ministry of Climate Protection and the national gas infrastructure operator AGGM “exchange daily with all market players as well as with International partners to monitor daily supply volumes, gas volumes available on the market and price trends”said Leonore Gewessler, Minister for Climate Protection and Energy.
Austria already declared the early warning phase for the gas emergency plan a few weeks ago. The next step in the gas emergency plan will be the alert level, the ministry said. This would call on industry to save gas and replace it with other energy sources.
“The decisive criterion is progress in the construction of storage facilities. We want to start winter with storage facilities that are 80% full. We will then be well equipped. If this objective is threatened, we will take the necessary measures.”Ms. Gewessler said.
Austria currently has about 39% of its annual consumption stored in gas storage facilities, which puts the country in second place in terms of storage levels in the European Union, the government said.
Cuts in gas supplies from Russia have also been reported in Germany, the Czech Republic, Italy, France and Slovakia. Gazprom justifies the reduction in supply volumes by the economic sanctions imposed on Russia, which have caused delays in the repair of gas compressors.
According to the Russian news agency RIA, gas deliveries through the Nord Stream 1 gas pipeline from the Baltic Sea could soon be completely suspended.
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