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Uniper warns of blackouts due to dried up Rhine river

The lowest water levels in the Rhine for 15 years could result in power cuts in Germany, the utility reports. This comes at a critical time of tight gas supplies.

Photo: INA FASSBENDER/AFP / AFP

For each passing day, ships have to navigate around an increasing number of islands appearing in the Rhine river, now seeing the lowest water levels in 25 years.

This not only results in a river bed laid bare and an accompanying malodor. It also means that Germans must now prepare for potential power blackouts due to the low water levels, as it has become close to impossible for vessels to find a passage through it.

The news is reported by Bloomberg citing Germany’s largest utility, Uniper, which notes ”irregular operation” at two large coal-fired power plants Staudinger-5 and Datteln-5.

The 1,200 kilometer Rhine is crucial for marine traffic through western Germany where many types of goods are shipped, and along the river bank sit a number of coal-fired power plants. Supplies to these plants are now in jeopardy, and another utility, EnBW, has already reported irregularities in deliveries.

As Russia dials down gas supply, the European continent is increasingly dependent on coal, which the International Energy Agency projects the EU will use 7% more of in 2022 when compared to 2021. Germany accounts for a disproportionate amount of this increase as the nation frantically attempts to cut down on natural gas.

Other German utilities such as EnBW, Utility Steag, and Grosskraftwerk Mannheim have reportedly accumulated coal, therefore seeing no disruptions yet.

According to Bloomberg, German coal-fired plants are not the only power generators buckling under the heatwave. Throughout the summer, French nuclear have experienced unstable operations due to the water in rivers being too hot to cool down reactors.

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