RWE: Continued investments in coal

 As coal is cheaper than gas in Europe and in order to compete with renewables, many utilities companies are turning to coal, the most polluting source of electricity, to improve their margins.1

RWE is continuing to invest heavily in coal power plants, currently operating 15 (11 in Germany, 2 in the UK and 2 in the Netherlands).2 Many of these are more than 40 years old3 and 11 of them burn lignite, which creates more carbon emission than hard coal.4 RWE is also building a new coal fired power plant in Hamm, North Rhine Westphalia and another in Eemshaven in the Netherlands.1 RWE has built two new units for the lignite-fuelled plant in Neurath, Germany in 2014 and is pressing ahead with plans to build another in Niederhaussem close to the German border with Belgium.5 Lignite is mainly produced in opencast mines, which demands the opening up of large areas. This has a devastating impact on the environment and in many cases whole villages need to be resettled.

This continued investment in coal impacts on carbon emissions. The 2014 Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report states that amongst the different conventional and renewable energy sources, it is still the burning of coal that causes the highest CO2 emissions.6 According to the Carbon Disclosure Project, RWE ranks in the global top 10 utilities with the highest carbon emissions7 and one of the highest in Europe.8 Other research has classified RWE as number six responsible for emissions attributed to coal and as number 11 with regard to cumulative global industrial emissions between 1751 and 2010, being Germany’s CO2 emitter number 1.9

  1. The Economist (2013): The unwelcome rennaissance; 5 January: (accessed 28.09.2014) [] []
  2. RWE (2014): Locations: (accessed 28.09.2014) []
  3. Herman, H., Harthan, R.O. (2014):CO2-Emissionen aus der Kohleverstromung
    in Deutschland: (accessed 04.10.2014) []
  4. Volkner (2003): Specific Carbon dioxide emissions of various fuels: (accessed 20.10.2014) []
  5. Andresen, T. (2014): Coal Returns to German Utilities Replacing Lost Nuclear; Bloomberg; 15 April: (accessed 10.10.2014) []
  6. IPCC (2014): Climate Change 2014: Mitigation of Climate Change. Contribution of Working Group III to the Fifth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change; Cambridge University
    Press, (Chapter 7; Table 7.6, p. 35): []
  7. Carbon Disclosure Project (2013): Global 500: Climate change report
    2013: pg 39, 51: (accessed 20.10.2014) []
  8. Reuters (2014): RWE’s power output Q1 falls 17%, hedging rate slips; 14 May: (accessed 20.10.2014) []
  9. Heede, Richard (2013): Carbon Majors: Accounting for carbon and methane emissions 1854–2010, 7 November: (accessed 24.11.2014) []