Austria restores coal-fired plant on Russian gas supply fears

20 Jun 2022

The Austrian government has reached an agreement with the country’s leading energy company, Verbund to transform a gas-fired power plant to produce electricity with coal, if limited gas supplies from Russia lead to an energy crisis.

The decision was reached on Sunday by a "small crisis cabinet" with Chancellor Karl Nehammer at the helm. This followed on from an announcement by Germany regarding measures to deal with a reduction in gas deliveries from Russia, including greater dependence on coal-fired power plants.

The European Union has been accumulating inventories and seeking out alternative supplies of gas, on fears Russia could halt supplies in retaliation for economic sanctions imposed over the war in Ukraine.

The Austrian Chancellor’s office said that Verbund had agreed to convert the Mellach power plant, located in the Styria region, for renewed coal usage. Although shut down, the plant had been kept on stand-by. This was the country’s last coal-fired power plant before converting to a gas-fired plant when required.

"The federal government and the energy group VERBUND have agreed to convert the Mellach (Styria) district heating power plant, which is currently shut down, so that in an emergency it can once again produce electricity from coal (not gas)," according to a statement by Nehammer's office.

The office went on to add that the government will be looking at additional legal steps to diversify gas supplies, with the overarching aim of reducing the reliance on supplies from Russia.

At the end of last week, Russian gas supplies into Europe didn’t reach demand, increasing benchmark prices already up by fears over a lack of supply in Europe during winter.

Austria sources around 80% of its gas from Russia, yet since the war in Ukraine, the country has been pushing to find alternative suppliers.