Oil Report

Vattenfall sees ease in German nuclear opposition

BERLIN, Aug 18 (Reuters) - German opposition to nuclear energy is starting to ease but the debate is still too emotional, the chief executive of Swedish power company Vattenfall said in an interview published on Monday.

Lars Goran Josefsson told Berlin’s Tagesspiegel newspaper that state-owned Vattenfall, [VATN.UL] whose German subsidiary is one of the country’s top four generators, would consider investing more in renewable energy if it were allowed to run its German nuclear power stations for longer.

“We can discuss this. But it has to be market-oriented ... any restriction to energy markets makes things more expensive for customers,” he said.

Germany plans to phase out nuclear power, unlike some of its European neighbours which see the technology as a tool to reduce carbon dioxide emissions and dependence on natural gas.

But high power prices have prompted some German politicians to call for the phase-out to be scrapped or postponed.

“I see movement in this area in Germany too, that’s what the latest surveys show. Unfortunately the mood here is still a bit ossified. I don’t understand that, and I wish that the debate was a bit more objective and less emotional,” Josefsson said.

Vattenfall was also considering selling its power grid, in part because of how the apparent concentration of both production and distribution assets had damaged the firm’s reputation, Josefsson said.

One of Germany’s top courts ruled recently that Vattenfall had overcharged competitors for using its grid, and must pay back around 50 million euros ($74.6 million).

“First we’ve got to see if there are respectable investors, which will invest long-term in the grid, and second whether there’s a decent price. There are plenty of interested parties, including private equity companies.”

But the creation of an independent national grid company, bringing together all main power companies’ networks, would be difficult, Josefsson said.

“It’s theoretically possible. I don’t rule it out, but it’s very complicated.” (Reporting by David Milliken; editing by James Jukwey)