Police in East Germany on Monday removed climate protesters from the site of a coal-fired power plant after the operator said their actions forced a cut in production.
Protesters targeted both coal storage depots at the power plant and the railway lines used to transport fuel to the power plant in Jänschwalde, near Cottbus.
The group, whose name “Unfreiwillige Feuerwehr” roughly translates as “unwilling firefighters,” said about 40 of its members were on the scene.
“We are taking the coal flow into our own hands here today,” the group said.
The interior minister spoke of sabotage, while the police said it was clearly criminal activity.
Partial output reduction caused, no power outages
According to a spokesman for the energy company Leag, Thoralf Schirmer, activists have disrupted both an on-site coal storage facility and the railway lines that fed the plant.
Schirmer called the activities an “attack on the security of” [electricity] delivery.”
He said the outages temporarily forced the lignite plant (or lignite) to about half capacity, but normal service was resumed later on Monday. The reduced output did not lead to power outages.
“Fossil-free future: scrap coal, gas and nuclear power plants,” the sign reads in full in German
Police described the efforts to clear the site as time-consuming and said it was difficult to remove or dislodge the protesters from train tracks or other equipment.
Police did not comment on the number of people involved, but a spokesperson told the German news agency dpa: “It is clear that this is a criminal case.”
Ukraine questions German coal and nuclear shutdown plans
Germany’s plans to move from both nuclear power and coal were already established before the Russian invasion of Ukraine. But the conflict is putting pressure on plans to shut down the last nuclear reactor by the end of 2022 and the last coal-fired power station in 2038.
For example, the Jänschwalde coal-fired power station can ignite two more block units within a few days, which until recently were kept as an emergency reserve. However, this decision is still pending approval from the state environment agency, following an objection to the move to reactivate blocks E and F on the site.
Two of the country’s last three remaining nuclear power plants also appear to be ready to operate for at least a few more months than previously planned, if and when the government and plant operators can agree on a new timetable.
The issue is also causing tensions in the coalition government, which consists of the environmentally conscious Greens, the center-left Social Democrats (with a long history against nuclear energy but also with close historical ties to miners’ unions), and the business-oriented Free Democrats (FDP), who urges its two more senior partners to raise their concerns in light of high Russian gas prices.
On Monday, FDP finance minister Christian Lindner said German coal and nuclear power plant operators “need clear planning certainty” until at least 2024.
“We need to get to the roots of the problem,” Lindner said. “We need these plants in the European electricity mix.”
Activists in Berlin block major roads
Meanwhile, the police in the capital Berlin mobilized to put a stop to a separate protest organized by the “Extinction Rebellion” group.
People gathered at three major bottlenecks in the city center, with the main group erecting a pink fake drilling rig outside the Federal Ministry of the Environment building on Potsdamer Platz.
They also converged at two intersections of Unter den Linden street, one adjacent to Charlottenstrae and the other to Friedrichstrae. According to the organizers, 250 people showed up at the Charlottenstraße intersection alone.
Berlin police said they deployed about 450 officers to deal with the protesters. This was difficult because some of them had glued themselves to the road or sidewalk, they said.
Extinction Rebellion complained that police checks and searches had hindered them. It also said it plans further activities in Berlin on Tuesday.
msh/wd (TNZT, dpa, Reuters)