UPDATE 1-Uniper says it could consider earlier closure date for Datteln 4 plant

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FRANKFURT, July 9 (Reuters) - German utility Uniper could consider closing its new hard coal-fired plant Datteln 4 earlier than the official exit date of 2038 if conditions for the company are right at the time, chief executive Andreas Schierenbeck told reporters.

The government recently passed a coal exit bill, under which closures currently due to take place by 2038 at the latest will be monitored and possibly revised in 2026, 2029 and 2032 if the country decarbonises its industries earlier.

Uniper is majority-owned by Finland’s Fortum, whose focus is on power generation from fossil-free sources.

Apart from Datteln 4, a state-of-the-art plant that only went into service on May 30, Uniper plans to close its German coal-burning plants by 2025.

Speaking in Duesseldorf, Schierenbeck reiterated that the company’s troubled Berezovskaya 3 coal-to-power plant in Russia can restart in fourth quarter of 2020.

Schierenbeck said the prediction was only valid from today’s viewpoint. Further delays could not be ruled out.

The 800 megawatt lignite generation plant was damaged by a fire more than four years ago. Its overhaul has been slowed by quarantine measures related to the coronavirus crisis.

Schierenbeck upheld financial guidance for the Uniper group for 2020, saying business was running smoothly.

Uniper has not had to enforce short-time working or savings plans during the pandemic, which has left utility companies that provide essential services relatively unscathed. (Reporting by Tom Kaeckenhoff Writing by Vera Eckert Editing by Michelle Martin)