Austria to convert coal power plant as Russian reduces gas deliveries

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Austria to convert coal power plant as Russian reduces gas deliveries
A photo shows cooling towers of the hard coal-fired power plant Scholven operated by the German energy group Uniper in Gelsenkirchen, western Germany on April 29, 2022. Austria has shut down all its coal plants in 2020. (Photo by Ina FASSBENDER / AFP)

Austria will convert its Mellach power plant in Styria to run on coal instead of natural gas in case of an emergency.


On Sunday, Austria's federal government announced it cut a deal with energy group Verbund and will convert the Mellach power plant in Styria to run on coal.

The announcement comes as Russia has delivered only half as much gas as promised in the past few days. Austria gets 80 percent of its supply from Moscow and has been looking for alternative sources since the war in Ukraine.


Mellach was Austria's last coal-fired power plant until it was converted into a gas-sourced plant and put on stand-by in 2020.

READ ALSO: What is Austria’s emergency plan if Russia cuts gas supply?

The decision to convert it back to coal two years after the country celebrated its coal phase-out was taken by a crisis cabinet led by chancellor Karl Nehammer.

"The most important thing is that the acute gas demand can be met, and we can create gas supplies for the winter," Nehammer said. Currently, gas storage facilities are filled at 39 percent, but should be at 80 percent by October to be ready for the heating season.

The plant operator said it would need time to make necessary changes to Mellach and purchase the required coal for combustion.

The goal is to have operations ready so that the power plant can be used in a few months, if necessary, the Ministry of Energy told Der Standard.

In the long run, though, Austria intends to reduce its dependence on Russia, which will take years, Energy Minister Leonore Gewessl said.


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