BERLIN (AP) — Chancellor Olaf Scholz on Saturday inaugurated Germany’s first liquefied natural gas terminal, declaring that the speed with which it was put into service is a signal that Europe’s biggest economy will remain strong.
The top three officials in the government — Scholz, Economy Minister Robert Habeck and Finance Minister Christian Lindner — attended the inauguration in the North Sea port of Wilhelmshaven in a sign of the importance that Germany attaches to several new LNG terminals that it is scrambling to build following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
The terminals are part of a drive to prevent an energy crunch that also includes temporarily reactivating old oil- and coal-fired power stations and extending the life of Germany’s last three nuclear power plants, which were supposed to be switched off at the end of this year, until mid-April.
Scholz announced days after Russia invaded Ukraine in February that the government had decided to build the first two LNG terminals quickly.
“When we said that, for example, such a terminal should be built here in Wilhelmshaven this year already, many said that’s never possible, that would never succeed,” the chancellor said at Saturday’s ceremony. “And the opposite is true.”
Port facilities were completed a month ago and a specially equipped ship, a so-called “floating storage and regasification unit,” docked on Thursday with 165,000 cubic meters of LNG. The Economy Ministry said that regasification is expected to start in the coming days and “regular service” in January.
Two more terminals are slated to open this winter, with another three expected to be available next winter. Scholz said their total capacity will be well over half the amount of Russian pipeline gas that was supplied last winter.
Sluggish planning processes have long been a concern in Germany. Scholz proclaimed on Saturday that “this is now the new German speed with which we are moving infrastructure forward.”
“This is a good day for our country and a good signal to the whole world that the German economy will be in a position to continue being strong, to produce and to deal with this challenge,” he said.
Efforts to make Germany independent of Russian gas were well underway before Russia started reducing supplies through the Nord Stream 1 pipeline, which was its main supply route, in mid-June. Russia, which used to account for more than half of the country’s natural gas supply, hasn’t delivered any gas to Germany since the end of August.
Scholz underlined the importance of pursuing Germany’s transition to renewable energy sources, and stressed that a new pipeline to Wilhelmshaven was planned in such a way that it can in the future be adapted to transport hydrogen.
Still, the new gas terminals have drawn criticism from environmental groups.
And while they have broad mainstream political support, a leader of the far-right Alternative for Germany party, Tino Chrupalla, argued on Saturday that the Wilhelmshaven facility wouldn’t solve the energy crisis and called for the government to drop sanctions against Russia.