BERLIN: Germany’s coal imports are likely to fall to 54.6 million tonnes in 2017 from 55.2 million in 2016, lobby group VDKi said, citing competition from renewable energy.
Three quarters of last year’s imports went to power utilities, a quarter to the steel sector and the remainder to heating providers.
Hard coal and domestic brown coal are still the backbone of power generation in Europe’s biggest economy, but Germany is moving away from nuclear and fossil electricity to renewable energy.
Steelmakers in the German WVS association reported 1.7 percent higher crude steel production in Jan-June to 22.2 million tonnes, citing positive developments in steel using industries.
“We expect the positive trend in the steel industry to continue, but coal-fired power generation may see further weak months (in terms of coal usage),” VDKi managing director Franz-Josef Wodopia told a news conference.
German imports monitored by some 70 VDKi member companies in 2016 already fell by four percent year-on-year due to a sharper than anticipated fall in usage by power stations while steelmakers consumed more.
Germany used imported hard coal for 17 percent of its 2016 electricity generation while 23 percent came from domestic brown coal.
Turning to 2017, VDKi said with ongoing renewable capacity installations and unpredictable weather, coal use would depend on the performance of wind and solar power installations.
In the first three months power generation from hard coal rose by 3.2 percent but there were times in the winter at which solar and wind were barely producing.
Wind speed patterns in April boosted offshore wind turbine output by 58 percent and wind onshore by 33 percent, resulting in a drop by 26 percent of coal-to-power in April alone and a fall in Jan-April coal use by 2.7 percent.
Renewables are given priority access to power grids at fixed subsidised prices under Germany’s transition path to a renewable-dominated energy future.
“If there was another month like April, weatherwise, we could strike another half a million tonnes from projected 2017 coal imports,” Wodopia said.
Germany’s top coal suppliers are Russia, Colombia, the United States, South Africa, Australia and Poland.