October 12, 2018 / 8:40 AM / a year ago

Uniper defends Datteln 4 plant in German coal debate

FRANKFURT, Oct 12 (Reuters) - German utility Uniper has hit back at suggestions that Germany should sacrifice the company’s planned Datteln 4 coal power plant to help to meet the country’s carbon-reducing climate goals.

The Rheinische Post daily reported on Friday that Economy Minister Peter Altmaier proposed that Germany considers shutting close to 5 gigawatts (GW) of German coal-fired power capacity and that Datteln 4 should not be connected to the power grid.

The plant is already under contruction and slated to begin operating in 2020.

“It would be a foolish act to symbolically sacrifice Datteln 4 within a possible coal-exit scenario,” Uniper board member Eckhardt Ruemmler said in a written statement.

“Instead of making the energy transition a model of success with the help of one of the most modern power stations in Europe, we would instead continue to operate old and more highly CO2-emitting plants (should Datteln 4 not go live).”

A spokeswoman for the Berlin ministry said Altmaier had not made numerical suggestions regarding coal capacity to be shut.

She referred to a coal-exit commission that is due to meet on Friday ahead of a year-end deadline to come up with a schedule for limiting and phasing out coal-fired power generation.

Altmaier is not part of the commission.

Datteln 4, a 1,050 megawatt (MW) hard-coal plant, should have started in 2011 but proved a major headache for Uniper, attracting protests by environmentalists and swallowing 1.2 billion euros ($1.4 billion) in investment so far.

It has also been held up by damages to its boiler during component tests.

Ruemmler emphasised that Uniper was ready to work with the government on making power production less carbon-intensive and eventually get out of coal altogether.

Germany still derives 40 percent of its power from coal and employs tens of thousands in the industry.

The coal commission will help to allocate federal funds amounting to 1.5 billion euros in the current government’s term for bringing new industries into coal regions, according to a draft proposal seen by Reuters.

It is also expected to discuss additional funding needs and infrastructure for the longer-term future of the regions, working closely with the European Union. ($1 = 0.8638 euros)

Reporting by Tom Kaeckenhoff and Markus Wacket Writing by Vera Eckert Editing by David Goodman

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