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RWE pledges carbon neutrality in two decades’ time

German coal-fired utility giant RWE has announced a large-scale shift towards renewables as pressure grows for the country to up its climate ambition. 

RWE – the biggest producer of carbon dioxide in Europe – has pledged to go carbon neutral by 2040. The company’s Chief Executive, Rolf Martin Schmitz, has said the company will cut its carbon emissions by 70% by 2030 compared with its 2012 figure.

Reductions will be achieved largely through shuttering the firm’s remaining coal-fired power stations. RWE will decommission its last coal plant in the UK next year and convert two facilities in the Netherlands to burn biomass. 

However, the company has said it will continue to operate six coal-fired power stations in Germany, which will gradually be taken offline in alignment with the recommendations of the country’s Commission for Structural Change.

RWE plans to invest €1.5bn each year in expanding its portfolio of wind and solar farms, though it will also invest in storage, biomass and gas power stations fired by ‘green’ gases.

‘We have a very clear idea of how to achieve our goal,’ Schmitz said in a statement. ‘We will phase out fossil energy sources both consistently and responsibly. We will make huge investments in wind and solar power as well as in high-capacity storage technologies. The new RWE is and will remain one of the major players in the electricity generation business.’
Fellow German utility firm E.ON has also agreed to transfer its renewable generation portfolio to RWE as part of a large asset and share swap deal. The merger will make RWE the third largest renewables firm in Europe, and the second largest in the offshore wind sector. 

RWE’s announcement comes at a time of heightened climate policy tensions in Germany. The country is presently on course to miss its 2020 target of reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 40% on 1990 levels and is now turning its attention to 2030 instead. In late September, Chancellor Angela Merkel’s government agreed to set a price on carbon emissions to meet a revised target of cutting greenhouse gas emissions by 55% on 1990 levels by 2030. The plan has been criticised for lacking ambition by scientists and environmental groups. 

‘Lignite and nuclear energy have laid the foundations we are building the new RWE on. Past, current and future employees working in conventional areas have our utmost respect. But every form of energy has its time. Now we are opening a new chapter of our corporate history,’ concluded Schmidt.

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