RWE eyes early shut-down of Garzweiler lignite plant - paper
FRANKFURT Oct 8 (Reuters) - German utility RWE is planning to shut down its Garzweiler open pit lignite mine, Europe's biggest, earlier than planned as coal-fired power plants become less profitable, a German newspaper reported.
Sueddeutsche Zeitung said on Tuesday, without citing sources, that operations at Garzweiler would stop when all the lignite, or brown coal, has been mined from areas already cleared of towns and villages, which will be in 2017 or 2018.
That compares with a previously planned closure date of 2045.
A spokeswoman for the company said there were no concrete plans to shut down the mine in 2017 or 2018, declining to provide further details.
Along with peers E.ON and EnBW, RWE has come under intense pressure from falling wholesale power prices in Europe, its core market.
In addition, the strong expansion of renewables has hurt the profitability of gas plants, as power from solar and wind sources takes priority in being fed into the electricity grid, reducing the hours gas plants can run.
In a separate report, German daily Handelsblatt said on Tuesday that RWE was planning to bundle its retail sales businesses to cut costs, which could result in job cuts.
Sales activities in Germany, the Netherlands, Belgium and Britain would be combined under a European holding company, while eastern European operations would remain unaffected, Handelsblatt cited company sources as saying.
RWE declined to comment on the report. (Reporting by Maria Sheahan; Editing by Mark Potter)