RWE boosts German decarbonization with exit from coal and nuclear power

Sustainable energy

Germany RWE has decommissioned a total of 2,200 megawatts (MW) of power plant capacity.

Unit C, a boiling water reactor with a capacity of about 1,300 MW and the last component at Gundremmingen, will be one of the facilities to close. The company is turning off its 300 MW units Neurath B, Niederaussem C, and Weisweiler E in the Rhenish lignite mining region.

“This represents a further step in our rigorous efforts to implement the legally mandated phase-out of nuclear power and coal,” explains RWE Power CEO Dr Frank Weigand.

Since their commissioning, the four power plant units slated for closure have generated more than 400 billion kilowatt hours of electricity. That is roughly equivalent to Berlin’s electricity needs for the next 90 years, including all businesses and residential households. The German Federal Network Agency has been notified that this process is part of the legally mandated decommissioning roadmap.

The next round of decommissioning activities will begin on April 1, 2022, with the removal of a third 300 MW unit at Neurath from the grid. RWE Power will shut down the two 600 MW units at the same location at the end of that year, as well as briquette production at its Frechen factory. In total, 1,620 MW of lignite capacity will be decommissioned next year. In Lingen, the company will also shut down the Emsland nuclear power plant (1,400 MW).

RWE already decommissioned Unit E at its Westfalen Power Station, which has an output of 800 megawatts, and Ibbenbüren Power Station, which has an output of 800 megawatts. As a result, RWE no longer operates hard-coal power plants in the United Kingdom and Germany, and its coal-fired power plants in the Netherlands are being converted to biomass. RWE also shut down the first of its units in the Rhenish lignite mining region, with a generation capacity of 300 MW, at the end of 2020, as required by Germany’s Coal Phase-Out Act.

RWE will decommission power stations with a combined capacity of over 7,000 megawatts between 2020 and 2022.

These shutdowns have far-reaching consequences for RWE employees: RWE Power plans to cut 3,000 jobs in the Rhineland by the end of 2023, covering the entire process chain from open-cast mining to maintenance, administration, and power generation. The number of employees at the Gundremmingen nuclear power station will decrease from around 600 at the beginning of 2017 to around 440 by the end of 2022; the remaining employees will work on post-shutdown operations and deconstruction work at the site until the 2030s. The nuclear fuel rods will be removed from the reactor and transferred to the holding basin as the first step. Employee reductions are being made in accordance with social responsibility principles, including the payment of “adaptation allowances” in the lignite area.

The lignite closures scheduled for tomorrow are another step in RWE’s carbon reduction strategy, which will allow the company to save an additional 7 million tonnes of CO2 per year. RWE, on the other hand, is pushing ahead with its renewables expansion with vigour. The company plans to invest €50 billion in renewable energy, batteries, storage systems, hydrogen, and flexible backup capacity by 2030.