As Germany closes its last nuclear reactors, it is also reactivating old coal power plants to ensure electricity supply security amid Russian threats to turn off the gas tap.

“Coal will play a crucial role,” said Olaf Lies, energy minister of Lower Saxony. “That we  choose this phrase once again is certainly not entirely self-evident given the country’s plan to phase out coal by 2030.”

As Russia wages war in Ukraine and threatens to stop pumping gas through the Nord Stream 1 pipeline, Germany is experiencing a rude awakening.

“We know, and we have to admit it, that in the last 20 years, we have maneuvered ourselves into ever greater dependence on fossil energy imports from Russia,” Vice Chancellor Robert Habeck said. “This is not a good state of affairs. All the efforts of the federal government, indeed of the country, are aimed at reducing this dependency as quickly as possible.”

That implies firing Germany’s coal power plants back up. “If we want to be more independent, we will have to operate with coal,” Lies said.

Germany currently has around 45 GW of coal power capacity in place. While some has been turned off, part of it is being held in reserve to ensure the country’s security of supply.

Habeck had already announced the creation of strategic coal reserves in a bid to cut down Germany’s reliance on Russian gas. Those will allow power plants to run for 30 days of winter without any deliveries, Spiegel reported. 

Now, Germany’s energy network agency has asked for the country’s coal power plants to remain on standby if needed.