Buy and Dissolve

Greenpeace: We’ll Close Your Plants

Greenpeace Cooling Tower
Greenpeace to buy its very own coal power plant.
  • Why it matters

    Why it matters

    Utilities in Germany need to rethink their coal power operations, which have become less profitable or loss-making due to a transition to subsidized renewable energy.

  • Facts

    Facts

    • Vattenfall, a Swedish, state-owned utility, has been ordered by the Swedish government to divest coal operations to reduce CO2 emissions.
    • Vattenfall is the third-largest energy provider in Germany after E.ON and RWE.
    • Germany in 2011 announced plans to phase out nuclear energy by 2022 and draw at least 80 percent of energy from renewables by 2050.
  • Audio

    Audio

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Greenpeace Sweden expressed interest on Tuesday in buying the German lignite operations of state-owned Swedish energy provider Vattenfall, which has been forced to exit the coal burning business in a bid to reduce CO2 emissions.

“By buying the operation Greenpeace wants to ensure that the new mines Vattenfall is planning are not opened and the lignite is left in the ground,” Greenpeace Sweden said in a statement.

The environmental group has no immediate funds available for an acquisition but it could finance it by asking for money from donors, through crowd funding or “negotiations with other sources,” Greenpeace spokesman Juha Aromaa told Handelsblatt Global Edition.

Last month, industry experts estimated that Vattenfall valued the German coal-fired plants at between €2 billion and €3 billion, or $2.2-3.4 billion, but the sales price would likely be considerably lower, closer to €1 billion.

Vattenfall, based in Solna, Sweden, and fully owned by the Swedish state, announced the sale of its brown coal power plants and mining operations in Germany last year. A new coalition of Social Democrats and Greens came to power in Sweden and it ordered the utility to exit its coal businesses.

“We want to ensure new mines are not opened and the lignite is left in the ground.”

Greenpeace, Sweden

Vattenfall, the third-largest energy provider in Germany after E.ON and RWE, wrote down 15.2 billion Swedish crowns, or $1.8 billion, on its German lignite operations in the second quarter, citing lower profit margins on the activities.

Coal companies say Germany’s phase-out of nuclear power and transition to renewable energy sources, a decision taken by Chancellor Angela Merkel in 2011 after the Fukushima nuclear disaster in Japan, has led to a glut of state-subsidized renewable energy and cut wholesale electricity prices in half, making coal power plants less profitable.

Greenpeace denied its interest in buying Vattenfall’s German lignite operations was a marketing stunt. “We are very interested in negotiations, where we can really see how we could most effectively phase out these coal power business, which create such massive amount of emissions,” Mr. Aromaa said.

The environmental group had so far not hired any consultants or bankers to advise on a possible acquisition, Mr. Aromaa said.

In order to speed up the sales, Vattenfall is restricting the sale of 10 hydroelectric power stations only to those willing to take all four lignite power plants and corresponding mining operations off their hands.

 

Handelsblatt Global Edition’s Gilbert Kreijger writes about companies and markets. To contact the author: kreijger@handelsblatt.com 

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