A question of security

With the waging of war on Ukraine, speeding up the energy transition has also become a question of national and European security. Germany wants to become independent of energy imports from Russia as quickly as possible and is strengthening its security of supply.

Gas valve© Adobe Stock / todor

Russia’s war of aggression on Ukraine has brought a key facet of the energy transition to the fore: its role in ensuring energy security and energy sovereignty. “We need a faster energy transition and a faster expansion of renewable energy. This is rule number one for ensuring an affordable, independent and secure energy supply,” said Federal Minister for Economic Affairs and Climate Action Robert Habeck in an interview with journalists in Schleswig-Holstein in mid-March.

Expanding renewable energy more quickly means that gas and coal imports can be replaced at greater speed. The electrification of heating and transport is gradually enabling Germany to reduce its imports of gas and oil.

The ‘Plan for strengthening crisis preparedness to ensure security of supply’ developed by the Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Climate Action provides an overview of which measures the German government has already taken and which are currently being prepared. These are explained in brief below.

Accelerating the expansion of renewables

As part of an immediate action programme (‘Easter Package’), the cabinet is to adopt an extensive revision of the Renewable Energy Sources Act (EEG). This is intended to considerably speed up the expansion of renewables, significantly raise the volume of electricity being generated and greatly increase the range of deployment corridors, especially when it comes to wind and solar energy installations in Germany. There will also be an amendment to the Offshore Wind Energy Act to accelerate the expansion of offshore wind power, which will include higher expansion targets and new remuneration models. In addition, the EEG surcharge (green electricity surcharge) will be abolished from 1 July 2022 in order to reduce the burden on German electricity consumers as a result of the increase in electricity prices.

Hitting turbo on the ramp-up of hydrogen

Parallel to the expansion of renewable energy, the Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Climate Action is stepping up the development of an infrastructure for hydrogen and of the production of this energy source. The use of climate-neutral, “green” hydrogen could help reduce Germany’s dependence on Russian natural gas in the medium term. This is why the German government wants to further expand existing hydrogen partnerships in Europe and internationally, and to set up new alliances in this area too.

Germany and Norway agreed on close cooperation in the field of hydrogen as recently as mid-March. They are currently examining possibilities for the construction of a pipeline between the two countries which could go on to transport green hydrogen. In addition, Climate and Energy Minister Robert Habeck recently travelled to the United Arab Emirates (UAE) in a bid to strengthen and accelerate Germany’s cooperation on hydrogen with the federation. During the visit, four agreements on hydrogen cooperation were concluded by German industry, alongside one agreement on hydrogen research. The first deliveries of renewables-based hydrogen should be able to be made later this year.

Another important building block for ramping up hydrogen use is the funding instrument H2-Global, which is helping to accelerate the international market ramp-up of green hydrogen and its derivatives.

Securing the supply of oil and coal from other sources

Currently, around 50 per cent of Germany’s coal imports and 35 per cent of its oil imports come from Russia. According to Minister Habeck, Germany would be able to dispense with the vast majority of oil imports and all coal imports from Russia by the end of 2022.

As for oil, the fact there is a functioning world market means it can also be purchased outside Russia.
In terms of coal, the German government now wants to obtain the volumes it has been procuring from Russia from a number of different sources and to build up coal reserves as well. Ultimately, however, Germany will go on to overcome its dependence on imports of hard coal through the gradual phase-out of its coal-fired power generation, which it now hopes to complete by 2030.

International Energy Agency releases oil reserves

In order to calm the oil market, Germany, as a member country of the International Energy Agency (IEA), released three per cent of its oil reserves at the beginning of March. The measure was taken following a special meeting of the IEA and the decision that a total of 60 million barrels of oil reserves should be made available around the globe.

Coal-fired power plants as a temporary reserve

In view of the Russian attack on Ukraine, coal-fired power plants need to be available as a back-up. In the case of lignite, this security stand-by function can provide a total 1.9 gigawatts (GW).

Nuclear power plants: longer operating lifetimes are not an alternative

Extending the lifetimes of the three nuclear power plants still in operation could only make a very limited contribution to energy security and would be very expensive. This is why all remaining nuclear power plants will still have to be taken off the grid by the end of 2022 at the latest.

G7 countries and European Commission discuss greater energy sovereignty

On 10 March, the energy ministers of the G7 countries met to discuss the current situation in the Ukrainian energy sector and how to increase the energy security of both the G7 countries and of Europe. Minister Habeck spoke in this context of a “wake-up call” for German and EU energy policy. Key outcomes of the meeting were recorded in a Joint Declaration (PDF, 524 KB). Previously, on 8 March, the European Commission had presented a possible plan for making Europe independent of fossil fuels from Russia (initially gas) well before 2030.

How dependence on Russian natural gas can be overcome

Among Germany’s energy imports, natural gas currently causes the greatest dependency and is the most difficult to replace. In order to improve this situation and to change it in the medium term, Germany’s gas reserves are first of all to be secured using ‘long-term options’ (special tenders). In addition, a Gas Storage Act is to be introduced to ensure that Germany’s gas reserves are sufficiently full at all times. Germany’s plans to purchase LNG and build its own LNG terminals will also open up new gas supply chains for the country. For more details on German and EU plans to move away from Russian gas, please click here.