Hard coal: pro& contra of fossil energy

Hard coal operators expect that the fossil fuel will still be needed until 2050. Thanks to the EEG reform, they could be right.

  • Hard coal will soon be 100% imported
  • Battery storage could relieve the power grid
  • Hard coal important for grid frequency

Mining of hard coal is declining in Germany, just starting in India. (Image: Burghard / Pixabay under CC0 Public Domain)

Hard coal will still be relevant in Germany at least until 2050. With this statement, industry expert Franz-Josef Wodopia caused astonishment among energy experts in Germany. Wodopia stressed in an interview that hard coal is the base of German energy.

No electricity without hard coal

According to Wodopia, for example, it would not be possible to keep the 50-Hz frequency of the German power grid stable without fossil energy. Likewise, the dependence in times of no wind and cloudy skies is still blatant. "Conventional power plants are indispensable".

But is this statement really true? After all, studies are already predicting that Germany will be completely supplied by green electricity in 2050. It is therefore necessary to look at the realities of the statement.

Of course, the managing director of the Association of Coal Importers will not rave about renewable energies; but the controversial statement is still not entirely wrong. The primary culprit is the Renewable Energy Sources Act (EEG), which in its reformed form is slowing down the massive expansion of green power.

Power lines

German power lines cannot adequately transport the electricity generated. (Image: By The original uploader, CC BY-SA 3.0)

Hard coal is pleased about brake in EEG

The German government set expansion corridors, which were tightly calculated in order to prioritize the expansion of the power grid. For hard coal, this means: As long as no more solar and wind farms are built, dependency will persist

But hard coal has a long way to go before it can be used in German power plants operated by RWE, Steag or EnBW. The majority of hard coal is not mined in Germany. The Federal Environment Agency even assumes that hard coal will have to be imported completely in the coming years (as will uranium).

This means: The fossil fuel becomes even more expensive. Since there will be no mining areas in Germany, larger volumes will have to be transported to the Federal Republic. Although this strengthens the ability to plan in the electricity sector, it will lead to more expensive prices in the long term.

Wind power Sunrise

Electricity prices could rise again. (Image: drop / Pixabay under CC0 Public Domain)

Power outage during bad weather

Wodopia stresses that the power grid is subject to too much fluctuation without hard coal. However, this could change in the future if effective electricity storage systems come on the market. As soon as decentrally generated green electricity can be stored permanently, the power grid will also be supplied with continuous energy.

And what about the grid frequency, which cannot be kept stable without hard coal?? This problem can also be solved with efficient energy storage systems. However, the status quo looks different.

The same amount of energy must always be introduced into our power grid as is consumed. If this value fluctuates, a power outage can occur. This variation can occur when the sky darkens or the wind doesn’t blow – in other words, if the renewables don’t work, the power grid doesn’t work either.

Energy transition: The path must be followed consistently

In this case, fossil fuels like hard coal step in. Wodopia’s statement is not completely out of the air. However, the CEO of the Association of Coal Importers also gives the direction for the energy policy: The power grid must be expanded so that positive green power times can be stored; and fed into the grid when needed.

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