Cabinet wants to speed up the operation of coal-fired power plants to avoid energy shortages

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The cabinet wants to speed up the operation of coal-fired power plants in order to guarantee the security of energy supply next winter. Minister Rob Jetten (Climate and Energy) and State Secretary Hans Vijlbrief (Mines) announced this on Monday afternoon at an inserted press conference.

By producing more energy with coal-fired power plants, less gas is needed. There is currently no gas shortage in the Netherlands, but the cabinet considers the risk “too great” to do nothing.

Since this month, Russia has stopped supplying gas to the Netherlands, just as the Russians have already (partially) cut off other European countries from their gas supply. It has everything to do with the war in Ukraine and the ensuing sanctions against Russia. The government is therefore concerned about gas storage in Europe.

In recent years, coal-fired power plants have indeed slowed down or been completely shut down in order to reduce CO2 emissions. It was a way of complying with the Urgenda judgment and it is necessary to achieve the climate objectives for the years to come.

A law states that coal-fired power plants will close in 2030 and it will remain so, Jetten explained. In addition, a temporary law stipulated that until then, coal-fired power plants were only allowed to operate at 35% capacity. They were compensated for this limitation of production.

Jetten will propose additional plans on Budget Day to limit CO2 emissions

This law is now disabled, allowing coal-fired power plants to operate at full capacity again. This can save 2 billion cubic meters of gas per year. Power plants no longer need to be compensated, which means the cabinet will likely have a lot more cash in reserve.

The government assumes that the coal-fired power stations will increase their production themselves, even if the compensation scheme is very attractive. It is expected that it will take a few weeks before production increases, because, for example, coal still has to be stored.

Jetten will make “efforts” to fully offset net CO2 emissions, so that climate goals remain in sight. The government wants to reduce emissions by 55% by 2030. Jetten will announce additional measures to this effect on budget day.

Crisis plan in force, but “no shortage of gas for the moment”

In addition to lifting the production restriction on coal-fired power plants, the cabinet decided to declare the first level of a gas crisis. This puts the gas protection and recovery plan into effect. Minister Jetten points out that there is currently no shortage of gas. These are preventive measures.

What is the Gas Protection and Recovery Plan?

  • A plan with actions that can be taken if there is a threat of a gas shortage
  • There are three levels of crisis
  • Early Warning Level 1 is now in effect
  • Gas companies are now required to provide additional detailed information on current gas deliveries and stocks on a daily basis
  • This will allow the firm to keep a closer eye on the gas market and to intervene more if necessary.

The government also wants to focus on even more savings. They will financially help large consumers to consume less gas. They can submit a plan to this effect.

Consumers won’t notice the measurements themselves, Jetten thinks. Energy prices will not fall sharply due to the additional operation of coal-fired power plants and cost-saving measures. In the coming period, the cabinet will examine possible additional schemes for low incomes.

Groningen gas extraction is really only “the very last resort”

Another possibility is to increase gas extraction again in Groningen, but this option only comes into play as a “very last resort”, Vijlbrief said. He again stressed that further gas extraction is not safe at this time.

In order to make this decision, an acute security risk for the Netherlands must then arise, which must be weighed against the security risk for the inhabitants of Groningen. For example, if hospitals can no longer be heated or if households can no longer cook. Before this happens, many other measures can first be taken which are included in the gas protection and recovery plan.

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