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German power behemoth RWE ditching coal by 2030

October 4, 2022

Energy firm RWE says it has reached a deal with the government to bring forward its phaseout of coal to 2030 in order to help achieve climate-protection goals.

View of the RWE lignite-fired Neurath power plant
RWE said it the decommissioning of Neurath D and E power plant units would be pushed back to 31 March, 2024Image: Political-Moments/IMAGO

German energy giant RWE said on Tuesday that it had reached an agreement with the government to phase out coal by 2030, bringing forward the target by eight years.

The move speeds up the closure of a number of large fossil fuel-fired power plants.

With EU countries in the midst of a power crisis, the producer said it would have to keep its Neurath D and E power plant units on the grid "to strengthen security of supply." Neurath is a lignite-fired power station situated near the western town of Grevenbroich.

In July, Chancellor Olaf Scholz's government announced the temporary reactivation of 27 mothballed oil and coal-fired power plants to help fill the energy shortfall until March 2024.

What RWE said about the coal phaseout

RWE CEO Markus Krebber pointed out the need to maintain the supply while keeping in line with targets to phaseout polluting fuel sources.

"As more coal is needed in the short term, thereby leading to rising carbon dioxide emissions, we will need an earlier coal exit because this is the only way to continue to achieve the country's climate protection goals," Krebber explained at a press briefing. 

"Security of supply is the order of the day. At the same time, climate protection remains one of the key challenges of our time. RWE supports both," Krebber said.

"In the current crisis, we are contributing to security of supply in Germany by temporarily increasing the use of our lignite-fired power plants and are thus also helping to displace gas from electricity generation," RWE's CEO said.

The decommissioning of RWE's Neurath D and E power plant unit would be pushed back to March 31, 2024. The process was initially planned to take place at the end of this year.

Germany revives coal-fired power plants

According to the RWE statement, the early exit would have "a major impact" on many employees, with staff reductions expected to accelerate toward the end of the decade.

What this means for coal-producing regions in western Germany

In March of this year RWE won a court victory, allowing the company to proceed with its lignite-mining operation in western Germany.

The accelerated phaseout will prevent the eviction of residents from several villages and farms near the large lignite mine in Garzweiler. However, there is a notable exception.

A farmer and two tenants had appealed a verdict that allowed RWE to clear forest, demolish buildings and excavate land at the edge of their property, effectively destroying the village of Lützerath.

RWE said the coal under Lützerath was needed "to operate the lignite fleet at high capacity during the energy crisis."

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kb/rt (Reuters, AFP)