The Government of Austria has reached an agreement with the state-owned electric utility Verbund to convert a gas-fired power plant to a coal-fired facility if restricted gas supplies from Russia lead to an energy crisis in the country.
Chancellor Karl Nehammer’s office said that Verbund had agreed to convert the closed Mellach gas-fired power plant, which is located in Austria’s southern Styria region.
Reuters reported that the move was decided by a ‘small crisis cabinet’ led by the Chancellor.
Although the Mellach plant is closed, it has been kept as a reserve and was the country’s last coal-fired power plant prior to being converted to gas.
In a statement, Nehammer’s office said: “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).”
The decision comes after the authorities of neighbouring Germany announced plans to resolve the reduced Russian gas supply issue by focusing more on coal-fired plants for power generation.
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Austria sources 80% of its gas from Russia and has been seeking alternatives for its gas supplies since Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine began in February.
The European Union’s sanctions on Moscow over its military incursion in Ukraine have put gas supplies from Russia at risk.
Earlier this month, Russia decided to stop the supply of gas to Europe after Shell refused to comply with Gazprom’s payment terms.
Since March, Russian gas company Gazprom has been asking European energy companies to make their payments in roubles.
The company also cut off gas supplies to Danish energy firm Ørsted after it refused to pay in roubles.
Despite this, German energy regulator Bundesnetzagentur said that the reductions will have minimal impact on Germany.