Two big European utilities, RWE in Germany and ENGIE in France, are both stepping away from coal-fired electricity production in favour of renewables and natural gas.
In Germany, RWE announced last week that it is abandoning future coal investments, beginning with a 1,200-megawatt lignite plant at Niederaussem, near Cologne, en route to becoming one of the world’s top half-dozen renewable energy providers.
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“In the future, RWE will focus on electricity generation from renewable energy sources,” stated an announcement issued last Friday. “Consequently, the company will no longer invest in new coal-fired power stations.”
Less than a week later, French multinational ENGIE unveiled plans to cut costs by offloading 2,435 MW of coal capacity in Germany and The Netherlands. “Upon completion of the sale—which is subject to the customary conditions and expected to close during the second half of 2019—coal will only represent 4% of ENGIE’s global power generation capacities, down from 13% at the end of 2015, the date the company announced it would gradually close or dispose of its coal assets and no longer build any new coal-fired power plants,” CleanTechnica reports.
RWE had been planning the Niederaussem project since 2012, expecting it to replace existing lignite plants that use older technology. “But the project was languishing when the wholesale power market slumped between 2012 and 2016 in the wake of the financial crisis and because of overcapacity, which led to major reorganization in the industry,” Reuters reports.
Now, the news agency adds, “RWE will take over 10,000 MW of renewable power assets from subsidiary Innogy and rival E.ON , making it the world’s number five renewables company.”
Earlier last month, RWE CFO Markus Krebber said his company expected to spend billions of euros on green power, energy storage, and gas-fired power. At ENGIE, CEO Isabelle Kocher took a similar view.
“This transaction is fully in line with the Group’s strategy to be the world leader in the zero-carbon transition,” she said. “We are focusing investments on solutions for corporates and local authorities, large-scale development of renewable energy, and the necessary adaptation of power and gas networks to the energy transition,” with investments totalling €12 billion coming up between 2019 and 2021.