Europe’s alternative fuel dilemma: Exploring Coal as an option

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One of the most obvious ripple effects of the Russian invasion on Ukraine is that it has put the European countries that heavily rely on the former’s energy exports in a tough spot. While these countries have been exploring alternative fuel options and how quick they can switch to them, coal has emerged as a viable option. The United Kingdom, Czech Republic, Bulgaria, Romania, Germany and Italy have more or less turned back to coal-fired plants despite their concerns about climate change. 

There are claims that the UK government has been in talks with West Burton A, a coal-fired energy station run by French energy giant EDF Energy, to keep its Lincolnshire operations running. The plant, which was scheduled to shut down in 2024 in keeping with the UK’s net zero plans, will continue to operate even if the government has ‘made no formal request to EDF.’ The country’s reliance on coal has fallen from 40 per cent in 2012 to just two per cent in 2019. 

The Czech Republic, with its 90 per cent dependence on Russian gas, has several of its companies deciding to switch back to coal from gas. Similarly in Bulgaria, the focus has shifted from gas power plants on keeping its coal stations running until they decide the fate of their two nuclear reactors which are empowered by Russian nuclear fuel. As per Romanian Energy Minister Virgil Popescu, the country will focus on increasing its coal extraction capacities using their already existing power plants. While Germany has decided to create strategic coal reserves across the country, Italy will also re-open coal-fired power plants to fill ‘any shortfall in the immediate future.’

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