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Germany has to decide on gas-to-power plants quickly

German power grid operator TenneT and environmental group Deutsche Umwelthilfe (DUH) on Tuesday united to call for more clarity over new gas-to-power plant capacity, which TenneT said is needed to stabilize supply once coal-fired plants close. 

DUH said however while more visibility was needed to help power providers plan, gas should not be relied upon to provide base load power, and should over time be switched to hydrogen.

Gas, while less polluting than coal, still emits carbon when burned and is linked to potent methane emissions.

Germany's incoming government last Wednesday presented climate protection plans with far-reaching reforms, including a faster expansion of renewables and an accelerated exit from coal, ideally by 2030.

But Germany, which supplies one fifth of European Union electricity, will still need to use gas to keep the lights on and its businesses competitive until the switch to greener power happens, TenneT said. "We will need gas capacity in future when supply cannot be met 100% by renewables," said TenneT Chief Operating Officer Tim Meyerjuergens in a joint call by the two organizations.

"We must set the framework for gas plant investors to assure them they can reliably operate these plants for 10 to 15 years."

DUH managers said Germany should not rush into greater use of gas, as stability could be provided by existing capacity overhangs and import and storage options.

"We will be able to steer demand in the power networks of the future," its Head of Energy and Climate Protection Constantin Zerger said.

Last year, the power system held capacity of 43 gigawatts (GW) of brown and hard coal, 25 GW of gas, 8 GW of nuclear, which is disappearing by 2022, and 130 GW of renewables.

Think-tanks and political lobbies predict that new gas-fired capacity in a range of 18 and 44 GW will be required by 2035, yet there is no noticeable investment activity while prices of gas and mandatory carbon emissions certificates are sky-high. 

(Reporting by Vera Eckert; Editing by Jan Harvey) 

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