FRANKFURT (Reuters) - Germany's hard coal imports could rise to 38-39 million tonnes in 2021, coal importers group VDKi said on Friday, raising an August forecast for 35 million to 36 million and citing lower wind speeds which increase the need for thermal generation to plug gaps.
VDKi's latest full-year estimate for Germany - Europe's biggest coal importer - would work out as an increase of between 6 million and 7 million, or 16% to 18%, over the volume last year.
Coal burning for electricity rose by 35% year-on-year in the first three quarters of 2021 and reached a total 8.6% of the power mix, VDKi noted in a statement, without providing totals for the period.
Coal's rival for power generation, gas, is also expensive, making coal use still attractive despite high prices of carbon emissions allowances, it said.
Commenting on globally traded coal, VDKi said that China remained a dominant factor on the demand side.
European import markets in the Amsterdam-Rotterdam-Antwerp range of ports were receiving more coal from South Africa after a long absence of that origin, it said.
An increase in imports in 2021, if it materialised, would break a five-year pattern of consecutive annual falls, but the general trend to drive coal out of power generation in Germany remains steady.
Carbon-free wind and solar power, when available, are given priority on distribution grids under Germany's climate-protection efforts and the newly forming government is committed to long term exit plans.
(Reporting by Vera Eckert, editing by Jonathan Oatis)