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Greenpeace plans bid for Vattenfall's German coal business

Environmental group Greenpeace is exploring funding options to buy Vattenfall's lignite business in eastern Germany in a bid to scale back the operations put up for sale by the Swedish state-owned energy giant.

On its website, Greenpeace Sweden released a letter to US bank Citigroup on Tuesday stating the environmental group's interest in buying Vattenfall's lignite operations in eastern Germany.

Citigroup is charged with selling off Vattenfall's power plants and coal mines in the region, which are worth between 2 and 3 billion euros ($2.2 billion and $3.3 billion).

The Swedish energy giant decided to shed its eastern German lignite operations, after writing down the business by $1.8 billion in July, citing the slump in power prices and worsening business due to Germany's transition to renewables.

Greenpeace Sweden's program manager Annika Jacobson said in an e-mailed statement that Greenpeace wanted to "start serious discussions" with Vattenfall and that there were "many ways to finance such an acquisition" or "buying strategic parts."

Crowd funding for climate saving

Juha Aromaa, a Greenpeace spokesman, said the organization could finance a potential acquisition with donor money, crowd-funding and other sources of financing.

"Mostly, we would believe it would be our supporters who would be interested in such an acquisition to save the climate," he said.

Greenpeace called on Vattenfall and the Swedish government to accept responsibility also for greenhouse gas emissions outside Sweden's borders, and added: "If they don't, we must handle the matter. The brown coal must stay in the ground."

Vattenfall spokeswomen Sabine Froning said in a statement on Tuesday that the process of finding a buyer would be "open," and that "all serious bids are welcome."

Under pressure

In eastern Germany, Vattenfall operates 8,000 megawatts of power producing capacity, including Europe's fourth largest carbon dioxide emitting power station, Jänschwalde. The Nordic region's largest utility is trying to adjust its portfolio of power plants to focus on renewable energy.

The planned sale of the German coal mines and power plants would enable the state-owned company to meet its emissions targets without reducing pollution.

Vattenfall's annual German emissions are 72.2 million tones of CO2 - more than the whole of its emissions in Sweden. Much of this is accounted for by its three massive coal-fired plants and five open-cut mines in eastern Germany.

uhe/sri (AFP, Greenpeace, Bloomberg)

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