The European nation imported roughly 55% of its gas from Russia before the invasion of Ukraine and has since reduced its dependence to 35%. Although Germany had originally planned to shutter its three remaining nuclear plants, the nation’s federal government announced that it will keep nuclear facilities Isar 2 and Neckarwestheim open as reserve sources of power.
“The drought in the summer has reduced water levels in rivers and lakes, which weakens hydropower in neighboring countries and also makes it difficult to transport coal to the power plants that we have to use due to the tense gas situation,” Habeck said. “The major crises — war and climate crises — have a very concrete impact. So we have a number of uncertainty factors, and the summer has made this even worse with the drought.”
Indeed, Habeck noted that hydroelectric capacity in nearby France is severely limited due to drought conditions. “Because of all these risks, we cannot rely on the fact that in the event of grid bottlenecks in our neighboring countries, there will be enough power plants available to stabilize our power grid in the short term,” he added.
The return of coal-fired power and the pause on the scheduled shutdown of German nuclear plants — which former Chancellor Angela Merkel greenlit following the 2011 nuclear meltdown in Fukushima, Japan — also occurs after Russian state energy company Gazprom cut off natural gas shipments through the Nord Stream 1 pipeline over the weekend. Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters that the nation may resume gas shipments if Western sanctions are eased.
“Problems with gas supply arose because of the sanctions imposed on our country by Western states, including Germany and Britain,” Peskov said. “We see incessant attempts to shift responsibility and blame onto us. We categorically reject this and insist that the collective West — in this case, the European Union, Canada, and the United Kingdom — is to blame for the fact that the situation has reached the point where it is now.”
Last week, finance ministers of the G7 nations — which include Germany, France, Canada, Italy, Japan, the United Kingdom, and the United States — reaffirmed a plan to impose price caps on Russian oil. The joint policy is meant to “significantly reduce Russia’s main source of funding for its illegal war,” Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen said in a statement.
Other European powers are scrambling to address energy shortages as natural gas prices increase more than tenfold compared to normal levels. French President Emmanuel Macron asked citizens to reduce energy consumption by 10% to avoid mandatory consumption limits, while incoming British Prime Minister Liz Truss, who succeeded fellow Conservative Party lawmaker Boris Johnson on Tuesday, is floating stimulus packages for companies and businesses.
“We will get spades in the ground to make sure people are not facing unaffordable energy bills… I will deal hands-on with the energy crisis caused by Putin’s war,” Truss remarked in her first speech as head of government. “I will take action this week to deal with energy bills and to secure our future energy supply.”