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31 Oct 2019, 13:32
Sören Amelang

Govt allows new coal plant to enter service despite phase-out - report

Reuters / Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung / Tagesspiegel

UPDATE - Former member of coal commission tells Tagesspiegel announcement could be "bluff" 

German utility Uniper has been given the green light to start commercial operations at its new 1.5-billion-euro Datteln 4 coal-fired power plant despite recommendations to not link it to the grid, government and industry sources told Reuters Newswire. Talks about compensation payments keeping it offline are no longer being pursued because the modern plant would have relatively low CO2 emissions and it would make more sense to switch off older units first instead of paying millions of euros in compensation, a government source told Reuters journalist Markus Wacket. The Datteln 4 plant with a capacity of 1,100 megawatts (MW) is Germany's largest hard coal plant. It is scheduled to be operational by mid-2020, according to the article.  Germany's coal exit commission recommended earlier this year not to start up the Datteln 4 plant, and to compensate Uniper. Germany aims to phase out coal-fired power plants by 2038 at the very latest.

But an unnamed member of the coal commission told energy policy newsletter Tagesspiegel Background the announcement could be a "bluff" by Uniper in order to push up compensation payments, and by the ministry for economics and energy to push for lower payments. Uniper suggested during the coal exit negotiations earlier this year that it was not particularly interested in getting the plant online given satisfactory compensation, the source said.

In a commentary in the conservative daily Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, Helmut Bünder called the coal commission's advice "paradoxical from an economic and an environmental viewpoint" as it would be "absurd not to use the cleanest among the dirtiest plants in the transition period until 2038 while continuing to operate notorious old polluters."  

Construction of Datteln 4 began in 2007, and the unit was originally scheduled to be operational in 2011. But the project was plagued by delays. Media commentators called it "a symbol of arrogance with which the established energy industry has ignored the boom of renewable energies for way too long."

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