German Power Plant Halted After It Runs Out Of Coal

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In the history of the world, German electricity prices have never been higher…

… and if what just happened at the Steag Bergkamen-A electric plant is any indication, they are about to get a whole lot higher.

According to Bloomberg, the global energy crisis has forced a German electricity producer to halt a power plant after it ran out of coal.

Steag GmbH – which operates six large-scale hard coal plants in Germany with an installed capacity of more than 4,000 MW – closed its Bergkamen-A plant in the western part of the country this week due to shortages of hard coal, it said by email.

The Bergkamen power station. Source: Google Maps

“We are short of hard coal,” said Daniel Muhlenfeld, a Steag spokesman. “There is a strong demand for coal per se and secondly, there is a strong demand for transport by barge. And since Bergkamen has no rail connection, there are no logistical alternatives available here.”

Steag is also facing logistical challenges as the recovery of Europe’s biggest economy fuels demand for river transport. Still the utility is optimistic that the plant will come back online “quite soon.” The Bergkamen-A plant was halted four times in September for as many as six days at a time due to external factors, according to filings. Three other German coal plants were halted on Friday for maintenance.

“We are dealing with a double bottleneck.” Muhlenfeld said. “This is not a specific problem for Steag but a common problem for nearly all owners of hard coal-based power plants these days.”

That explanation won’t make it any easier for millions of European residents to pay as much as 10x more than they are used when their next electricity bill comes in.

The closure, similar to what we have observed over the past two weeks in China, is the first sign that Europe may need to count on mild and windy weather to keep the lights on as the continent faces shortages of natural gas and coal is unlikely to come to rescue. Alas, as Bloomberg also notes, that is unlikely, at least in the near-term:

  • *GERMAN MONDAY BASELOAD POWER TRADES AT 179 EUR/MWH  TRDEBD3, UP 88.4% FROM FRIDAY DELIVERY AS WIND AND SOLAR SUPPLY EXPECTED TO HALVE

As a reminder, amid soaring gas and coal prices across the globe which have resulted in widespread fossil fuel (read nat gas and coal) shortages, China ordered its state-owned companies to secure supplies at all costs and Europe is burning more of its already depleted stocks of the dirtiest of fossil fuel, a move that may complicate climate talks next month.

As a result of the failure of “green” renewable sources of energy to fill the demand gap, European utilities have turned to coal due to shortages of natural gas, recently stepping in to the spot market to secure cargoes and even asking Russia for more supplies. China’s move to secure more supplies is likely to make matters worse, with Europe set to scramble to secure fuel this winter.

However, the more Europe telgraphs its glaring weakness, the more Moscow tightens the screws, and overnight nat gas flows via the Yamal-Europe pipeline plunged by 77% from Thursday, leading to new record high prices across the continent, where stockpiles of nat gas are at the lowest level in a decade.

As Bloomberg adds, coal is already trading at sky-high levels, putting an industry benchmark on track to break on Friday the previous record of $192.50 set in July 2008. Several cargoes of Australian coal changed hands above $200 a metric ton on Tuesday, according to traders who saw the transactions on the globalCOAL platform.

As for Germany’s alternative energy source, well, here’s a little story on where we stand there. As BBC reports, a huge wind turbine collapsed just hours before it was due to be officially inaugurated. The turbine, which reached a height of 239 metres, toppled over late on Wednesday without warning. No one was injured.

Remains of the wind turbine remain in the forest in Haltern

Remains of the structure are littered in a forest near the western town of Haltern am See in North Rhine-Westphalia. Police were not initially suspecting sabotage, according to the German DPA news agency.

Costing around €2 million, the wind turbine was scheduled to be officially launched on Thursday, although it was connected to the power grid six months ago.

Germany is trying to ramp up its use of renewable energy such as wind and solar as part of a transition away from fossil fuels and nuclear power. Unfortunately, as incidents such as this one demonstrate, it will take decades before base alternative energy is even remotely a viable alternative to fossil fuels. Until then, Europe faces many long, freezing winters, and while Europe’s virtue signalers can always say they are “green” they will also be very cold and perhaps broke too.



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