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14 Feb 2019, 14:05
Benjamin Wehrmann

Saving Hambach Forest would make it “Germany’s most expensive woodland” - RWE CEO

Clean Energy Wire

Hambach Forest in western Germany could be saved following the German coal exit commission’s agreement, but only at great cost, RWE head Rolf Martin Schmitz said at an industry event in Berlin. “The Hambach Forest could become Germany’s most expensive woodland,” he said, arguing that changing RWE’s lignite mining plans to spare the forest –  which has become symbolic for climate activists – would mean the cost per square metre saved would equal that of premium housing estate. Schmitz said implementing the coal exit commission’s agreement would have “massive consequences” for his company, especially during the first stage, which would see a lot of coal capacity in RWE’s area of operation in western Germany taken offline by 2022. He said this would force RWE to axe up to 3,000 jobs as a first step, and that he expects compensation of up to 1.5 billion euros for every gigawatt (GW) of capacity shut down. “The commission is finished, but for us the work has just begun,” Schmitz cautioned, adding that a consensus on giving up coal didn’t mean there was a consensus on the consequences.

The conflict between RWE and anti-coal activists and over the Hambach Forest, which the energy company says must be cut down to extend a nearby lignite mine, loomed over the coal exit commission’s negotiations in late 2018, when mass protests in the woodland put climate action at the centre of national debate. Although the commission officially said it would not meddle in current mining activities, its final report said that preserving the Hambach Forest would be “desirable.”

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