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Austria returns to coal age as Russia limits gas to Europe

AAustria is returning to the coal age, reviving the use of the dirtiest fossil fuel to generate electricity as Russia curbs natural gas flows to Europe.

Verbund AG, Austria’s largest and most valuable state-controlled utility company, was ordered late on Sunday to prepare its mothballed Mellach coal-fired power plant for operation. The plant, 200 kilometers (124 miles) south of Vienna, was closed two years ago as Austria became the second European country to eliminate coal entirely from its electricity grid.

“The government and Verbund have agreed to convert the Mellach district heating plant, which is currently shut down, so that electricity can again be produced from coal in an emergency,” the chancellor’s coalition said. Karl Nehammer in a statement.

Austria joins other European nations, including France, Germany and the United Kingdom, in extending the life of coal-fired power plants after Russia invaded Ukraine. Russia is cutting natural gas shipments to the Alpine country, where storage depots contain just 39% of Austria’s annual needs.

Read more: Europe is jeopardizing the future of green energy by replacing Russian gas

The Mellach power station, which also includes a gas-fired combined-cycle power station, supplies heat and electricity to Austria’s second largest city, Graz. After its closure, Verbund turned the coal-fired power plant into a center for researchers looking for ways to safely feed hydrogen fuel onto the power grid.

The Austrian government, which has pledged 6.6 billion euros ($7 billion) to build gas reserves before winter, reiterated its intention to impose a “use-it-or-lose-it” law forcing storage owners to fill deposits. That probably won’t include Haidach, owned by Gazprom PJSC, one of Europe’s largest underground reservoirs, which remains empty due to a dispute between Germany and Russia.

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