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Hard coal is an important pillar of supply security in Germany

Events during the year 2021 illustrate very clearly that supply security is and will remain one of the most important topics of the energy transition. The penultimate act in the nuclear power exit in Germany, the shutdown of 4 GW of power plant capacity, points to the importance of the remaining base of controllable, secure capacity. Securing power supply during the energy transition is also a priority for the German Coal Importer Association (VDKi), Berlin/Germany, because the availability of electrical power is indispensable as the share of production from renewable energies continues to rise.

The VDKi explicitly warns against a crash transformation of the German electricity and district heating supply within only a few legislative periods. The system of large fossil-fuelled power plants with reliable output that has always served the country well, even during the dark doldrums – especially as a back-up – must not be hastily destabilised. The VDKi explicitly emphasises the important role of hard coal-fired power plants for the supply of electricity and district heating. In view of tense market situations, switching back-up generation capacities exclusively to gas is detrimental to the security of supply and will impose even higher costs on consumers. The future course of energy policy, which also affects the market structure, must be defined quickly so that the transition to a sustainable and secure energy supply can be secured and so that prospects for the future can be clearly outlined for companies and their employees.

Power generation using hard coal increased by 26.7 % in 2021. The use of hard coal in the power plants was favoured by the extreme rise in prices of the competitive energy source natural gas as well as the lower electricity feed-in from wind power plants related to weather conditions. The energy source benefited from the economic effects with regard to sales to the steel industry. The share of hard coal in total primary energy consumption (PEC) increased from 7.5 to 8.6 %. German hard coal imports increased significantly by 7.2 Mt (24.5 %) to approximately 39 Mt in 2021. Imports of coking coals increased by 16 %, imports of steam coals by 28 %.

According to provisional calculations by the VDKi, global hard coal production increased by more than 5 % to 7.4 bn t in 2021. China once again posted a considerable increase in production of 200 Mt in 2021 because of the rapid economic recovery. India, the USA, Russia, Vietnam and Colombia also benefited and were able to increase their production.

Seaborne trade increased as well by almost 6 % to 1,180 Mt. With the exception of Australia and South Africa, the exports of the largest coal exporting countries rose. Compared to the previous year, Russia with an increase of 13 % and the USA with an increase of 44 % were even able to surpass the export levels of 2019.

At the VDKi’s New Year’s reception on 14th January 2022 in Hamburg/Germany, CEO Alexander Bethe bid farewell to the previous managing director Manfred Müller and thanked him for his excellent work in the difficult year 2021, which was overshadowed by the coronavirus pandemic. He will be succeeded by former ARD correspondent Jürgen Osterhage as of 1st February 2022. (VDKi/Si.)