Austria’s government announced yesterday that it would reopen a mothballed coal power station because of power shortages arising from reduced deliveries of gas from Russia. The authorities would work with the Verbund group, the country’s main electricity supplier, to get the station in the southern city of Mellach back in action, said the Chancellery. The statement followed a crisis meeting of the government. The aim is to be able to once again produce electricity from coal, should that be required in an emergency. But the process would likely take several months, the environment ministry told Austria’s APA news agency. Mellach power station, which was the country’s last coal-fuelled power station, closed in the spring of 2020 as the government phased out polluting energy in a bid to move to 100 per cent renewables.
“Our first objective is to secure the country’s supply,” said Austria’s conservative Chancellor, Karl Nehammer, who governs with the Greens. But 80 per cent of the country’s gas supplies come from Russia, he explained. “This is about replacing the missing Russian gas with other sources or suppliers so as to be able to continue to build up reserves,” he added.
In mid-June, Austria had 39 per cent of its storage capacity, said the government statement. In May, the government set out an emergency plan but decided to go even further after Russia’s gas giant Gazprom announced it would reduce its gas deliveries. Moscow has lost several European gas clients after it demanded that all “unfriendly” countries pay for Russian natural gas in rubles in response to a barrage of Western sanctions over Russia’s military intervention in Ukraine.
Gazprom has said exports to countries that did not belong to the former Soviet Union were down 28.9 per cent between January 1 and June 15 compared to the same period last year.
Germany also announced emergency measures on Sunday, including reverting to coal in what it called a “bitter but indispensable” step.