Dutch government tells Vattenfall to shut 650 MW coal plant by end-2019

OSLO (Reuters) - The Dutch government has told Vattenfall to close Hemweg 8, its 650 megawatt (MW) coal-fired power plant, by the end of 2019, the Swedish firm said on Friday.

Last year, the country legislated to shut all power generating plants using coal by the end of 2029, with two of the five having to close by the end of 2024 unless they switch fuels.

Friday’s decision surprised Vattenfall, which invested last year in enabling Hemweg 8 to operate until 2024, although the company said it expected to receive compensation for its losses.

“Early closure will have major consequences for Vattenfall’s Dutch production operation ... The Hemweg power plant will have to stop operating without the previously announced transitional period of 5 years,” the firm said in a statement.

Vattenfall said the closure would help the Dutch government meet the “Urgenda target”, a court ruling forcing the country to cut greenhouse gas emissions by at least 25 percent by the end of 2020, compared with 1990 levels.

The court case, filed by the Urgenda Foundation on behalf of nearly 900 Dutch citizens, was first decided by a regional court in 2015 and the verdict was upheld last year by an appeals court.

In 2017, Dutch emissions were 13 percent below the 1990 level, and the government said last year it would comply with the court’s order and that the 25-percent goal was “within reach”.

“The Dutch government has indicated that the level of the compensation for losses will be discussed further in the coming period. Vattenfall has confidence in a good outcome of those discussions,” the company said.

The Hemweg 8 plant dates from 1994. It is part of a larger plant that also includes the unit Hemweg 9, a 440 MW gas-fired power-production facility.

In January, Germany decided to shut down all of its coal-fired power plants by 2038 at the latest, proposing at least 40 billion euros ($45 billion) in aid to regions affected by the phase-out.

Reporting by Lefteris Karagiannopoulos; Editing by Mark Potter