FRANKFURT (Reuters) - RWE told shareholders on Friday it would be at the center of Germany’s transformation to renewable energy, but drew protests from environmentalists who say the country is not moving quickly enough to ditch fossil fuels.
RWE is in the midst of a reorganization ahead of a complex asset swap with sector peer E.ON later this year and Germany’s move to eventually phase out coal by 2038.
Under the swap deal, RWE will take over a raft of renewable assets from subsidiary Innogy and E.ON, giving it 10 gigawatts (10 GW) of green power capacity and making it Europe’s third biggest renewables company and the world’s number five.
“This will give our company an excellent future perspective,” Chief Executive Rolf Schmitz told the company’s annual general meeting (AGM) in the west German city of Essen, adding the old RWE would be barely recognizable within a year.
“We are driven by the goal to produce clean and secure electricity supply,” he said. “We want to become the growth engine for tomorrow’s energy world.”
RWE last week said it has canceled future investment in coal-fired power and Chief Financial Officer Markus Krebber told Reuters a week earlier the company would spent billions of euros on the green energy expansion.
But outside the AGM, activists protested that Germany’s energy transformation was moving too slowly.
Demonstrators, including members of the Fridays for Future movement and students skipping school, waved placards reading “Brown coal craziness - we cannot afford it any longer” and “The climate punishes latecomers”.
RWE still operates a large amount of generation capacity that uses heavily polluting brown coal and hard coal in its European core markets of Germany, Benelux countries and Britain.
RWE earlier this year gave assurances it would not touch until late 2020 the Hambach forest near Cologne, a recent focus of anti-RWE and coal protests, which it had hoped to clear for lignite mining.
Reporting by Tom Kaeckenhoff; Writing by Vera Eckert; Editing by Mark Potter