German energy giant RWE says it will phase out the burning of coal, saving 280 million metric tons of greenhouse gas emissions.
RWE says the decision will accelerate closure of some of Europe’s most polluting power plants and a large lignite strip mine in the west of the country, and enable development of renewable energy generation by wind, solar and hydrogen technologies.
The move will see the company bring forward its lignite phase-out plans by four years and will leave around 280 million tonnes of coal in the ground corresponding to around 280 million tonnes of CO2 that will not be emitted. While the company’s strategy was in line with the Paris Climate Agreement, the 2030 coal phase-out allows RWE to adjust its CO2 reduction plan to the 1.5 degree path.
RWE says that in order for the coal phase-out to be possible the energy transition must be so far advanced by 2030 that Germany’s security of supply is not placed at risk. This will require a massive expansion of wind and solar power plants, storage facilities and additional secured capacity in the form of state-of-the-art gas-fired power plants that can be operated with hydrogen in the future. The German government plans to create a framework for the construction of these plants in order to facilitate the necessary investments.
The company says it will invest over €50 billion globally in the expansion of its green core business by 2030, €15 billion of which is earmarked for Germany.
In North Rhine-Westphalia, RWE is to increase its expansion target of 1 gigawatts of renewables. The Rhenish lignite area, with its former open-cast mining areas, is a focal point. RWE intends to participate in the necessary expansion of modern Hydrogen-ready gas-fired power plants with around 3 GW of power plant capacity.
“Security of supply is the order of the day,” said Markus Krebber, ceo of RWE AG. “At the same time, climate protection remains one of the key challenges of our time. RWE supports both: in the current crisis, we are contributing to security of supply in Germany by temporarily increasing the use of our lignite-fired power plants and are thus also helping to displace gas from electricity generation.
“At the same time, we are investing billions of euros to accelerate the energy transition and are ready to phase out lignite by 2030. The further acceleration of the coal phase-out must not be at the expense of employees. That is why we want the phase-out to happen in a socially responsible way. It was important to RWE that the German government also assured us that it would adapt the legal regulations so that no one is left out in the cold.“