Reduced flows of Russian gas and the specter of a full supply disruption have prompted some European governments to reconsider coal, one of the dirtiest and most polluting ways of producing energy.
It has stoked fears that the energy crisis could see Europe delay its transition away from fossil fuels, although policymakers insist the burning of coal is a necessary stopgap to help prevent a winter supply shortage.
Coal is the most carbon-intensive fossil fuel in terms of emissions and therefore the most important target for replacement in the pivot to alternative energy sources.
However, Germany, Italy, Austria and the Netherlands have all indicated that coal-fired plants could be used to compensate for a cut in Russian gas supplies.
Russia’s state-backed energy giant Gazprom has cut capacity via the Nord Stream 1 pipeline that runs to Germany under the Baltic Sea, citing the delayed return of equipment serviced by Germany’s Siemens Energy in Canada.
It’s not clear when — or if — Nord Stream 1 gas flows will return to normal levels.
German Economy Minister Robert Habeck has described the government’s decision to limit the use of natural gas and burn more coal as a “bitter” one but said the country must do everything it can to store as much gas as possible ahead of winter.