Finance Minister Christian Lindner has warned that Germany’s gas crisis could spark an electricity shortage. Despite opposition from his Green coalition partner, he is pushing for a delayed phaseout of nuclear power.
The Isar-II reactor in Bavaria is due to be decommisioned at the end of the year
Amid fears that Europe’s largest economy may soon suffer gas shortages, Lindner told Bild am Sonntag newspaper: “We have to work on avoiding an electricity crisis on top of the gas crisis.”
He said that German Economy Minister Robert Habeck has the legal powers to stop gas from being used in electricity production if necessary.
Lindner, a politician from the neoliberal Free Democrats Party (FDP), again called for German nuclear plants to remain in service until 2024, saying they were “safe and climate-friendly.”
Three nuclear plants went offline in Germany last year, and three more are due to be decommissioned at the end of December.
In this first quarter of the year, nuclear plants accounted for 6% of the country’s electricity generation and gas for 13%.
The comments put Lindner into conflict with another of the FDP’s ruling coalition partners, the environmentally-friendly Greens Party.
Green’s co-leader Ricarda Lang insisted that a return to nuclear power “will definitely not happen with us.”
Lang told public broadcaster ZDF that nuclear remained a “high-risk technology.”
Calls for nuclear extension grow louder
The move to delay the nuclear phaseout would be awkward for Scholz’s center-left Social Democrats (SPD), the largest party in the governing coalition, and the Greens.
Opposition to atomic energy is a cornerstone of the Greens’ identity, while an SPD-Green government began Germany’s exit from nuclear power two decades ago.
Former Chancellor Angela Merkel made the final decision to decommission the country’s nuclear power plans in 2011, shortly after the Fukushima nuclear disaster in Japan.
Lindner’s suggestion to extend the life of nuclear plants does, however, have the backing of Merkel’s center-right conservative opposition.
Until now, the current government has said that keeping nuclear reactors running could be legally and technically complex and would not necessarily help ease the gas crisis.
Threat of gas shortage still elevated
Germany remains heavily dependent on gas from Moscow, but Russian state-owned energy giant Gazprom reduced deliveries through Nord Stream 1 to 20% of maximum capacity last week.
Moscow cited technical issues that Germany says are only an excuse for a political power play.
The supply reduction is fueling fears that Germany will not have sufficient gas for the coming winter, with potentially disastrous effects for industry and the public.
To allay those concerns, the government has already given the green light for 10 dormant coal-fired power stations to be restarted and six oil-lignite-fired plants.
Another 11 coal-fired power plants scheduled to be shut down in November will be allowed to keep operating.