Germany Shutters Seven More Coal-Fired Power Units

Two German energy companies said they shut down seven coal-fired power plants over the Easter holiday weekend, taking more than 3,000 MW of generation capacity offline for decommissioning.

The German government, which already has called for an end to coal-fired power generation in that country, had allowed the units to continue operating through the winter as Germany continues to reduce its dependency on natural gas from Russia after that country’s invasion of Ukraine in 2022.

RWE Power said it closed five coal-fired units at the Grevenbroich-Neurath and Bergheim-Niederaussemin power stations on March 31. The lignite-fired power plants in total had 2,100 MW of generation capacity.

LEAG said two of its coal-fired units, at Jänschwalde in the eastern state of Brandenburg, near Berlin, also were shuttered, taking another 1,000 MW offline. Two 500-MW units at the site were restarted at the start of the winter season to support the country’s power supply.

RWE Closes 4.2 GW of Capacity

RWE has now shut down 12 coal-fired units, with a total generation capacity of 4,200 MW, during the past three years. The utility said it will shut down the 300-MW Block F at the Weisweiler power plant by year-end, leaving just seven of the company’s coal-burning power stations in operation. RWE has said it plans to shutter all its coal-fired units by 2030.

Officials in Germany said that with the 2023-24 winter season over, grid operators do not expect problems with the country’s power supply as result of taking the coal-fired generation offline.

The 300-MW Neurath C and Niederaussem E and F units, among those closed on Sunday, had been available on a standby basis for the past few years. The 600-MW Neurath D and E units, originally scheduled to be closed at year-end 2022 in accordance with Germany’s phase-out of coal-fired power, had been allowed to operate through the end of March this year due to fears of a power shortage due to curtailed shipments of natural gas from Russia.

Units Operated Since the 1970s

The three 300-MW units had operated since the early 1970s. The two 600-MW power stations came online in 1975 and 1976.

“The RWE Power team stepped up when we were needed during the energy crisis. Everyone demonstrated enormous commitment,” said Frank Weigand, CEO of RWE Power. “I would like to thank each and every member of the workforce for this. In addition to the reliable operation of our remaining power plant units, our work in the coming years will continue to focus on preparing for the coal phase-out and final recultivation.”

RWE plans to build at least 3 GW of hydrogen-ready gas-fired power plants at the company’s power plant sites to help replace the lost coal-fired generation. The company has said the plan is contingent on economic conditions that permit investment in those facilities, along with being successful in the tenders for such power stations that have been announced by the German government. RWE has said it plans to invest as much as €11 billion ($11.8 billion) in offshore and onshore wind power, solar, storage, flexible backup capacities, and hydrogen between now and 2030.

Darrell Proctor is a senior associate editor for POWER (@POWERmagazine).

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