Germany is set to import around 50 million tonnes of hard coal in 2014 which would be just below last year’s record of 51 million tonnes, coal importers’ lobby VDKI said in a statement. With power prices historically low, generators are opting to burn more coal instead of more expensive gas.
The total would be made up of 37.5 million tonnes of steam coal for power stations, 10 million tonnes of coking coal for iron- and steelmakers and 2.5 million tonnes of coke, a related product, the group said, adding this was based developments from January to September.
“Third-quarter imports, at 7.9 million tonnes into Germany, were only slightly below the same period of last year,” it said.
Coal generation is still the backbone of German power supply in a country set on moving away from nuclear power and favouring renewable energy over fossil fuels. The country in January to September used hard coal for 43 percent of coal generation, of which 17 percent was hard coal and 26 percent domestic brown coal, industry statistics showed.
With power prices historically low, generators are opting to burn more coal instead of more expensive gas, which only held 10 percent of the generation market in the nine months.
Despite stable imports, VDKI is increasingly concerned that its utility customers are becoming unprofitable because of low power prices.
These partly result from priority given to green energy on power grids, where it causes supply pressure. Operators of hard coal-fired plants say they need to earn between 50 and 60 euros per megawatt hour of electricity to cover production costs, but are only getting 35 euros/MWh in the wholesale market.