German automotive giant Volkswagen (VW) said this week it was keeping its options open in terms of how it powers its huge European manufacturing plant. VW admitted that coal would still be needed regardless of the EU’s plans to end reliance on Russian natural gas.
When asked by CNBC how concerned the company was about gas supplies from Russia stopping and what that would mean for the firm’s operations, VW chief Herbert Diess said: “That’s actually really a threat… because it’s very hard to predict what’s going to happen. Here in Wolfsburg, we still have coal-fired power plants which we wanted to – and we are – converting to gas.”
Volkswagen’s manufacturing facility in the German city of Wolfsburg covers an area of 6.5 million square meters. It uses two cogeneration plants that provide it with heat and power.
The company had been planning to replace its coal-fired boilers with gas and steam turbine units in a bid to lower carbon dioxide emissions.
“It’s all prepared but now we are a little bit hesitant, and we will look and see how the situation is going to develop,” Diess said. “We can [adapt]... to the situation. We can, [for] a little bit, prolong our coal-fired plants – hopefully it’s not for too long. Then we would like to change to gas once the supply is secured.”
Reuters also quoted Diess as telling reporters that VW had “just decided to upgrade our coal-fired power plants to still be able to use coal or gas” in relation to the company’s main operations in Wolfsburg.
The European Union, which is aiming to wean itself off Russian energy, has pledged to slash natural gas imports from the country by two-thirds by next year and to eliminate its dependence entirely before 2030. Russia has been a major supplier of energy to the EU, meeting roughly 40% of the bloc’s demand for natural gas.
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