Nuke shutdown costs energy giant €1 billion

RWE, Germany's second biggest-power supplier, said Tuesday earnings last year were hit by a one-billion-euro ($1.3-billion) charge related to the shutdown of some of its nuclear power plants.

Nuke shutdown costs energy giant €1 billion
Photo: DPA

RWE said in a statement its net profit fell by 33.9 percent to €2.479 billion last year and operating profit declined by 24.3 percent to €5.814 billion on a 3.1-percent drop in revenues to €51.686 billion.

“For us, fiscal 2011 was marked by difficult economic and political framework conditions,” RWE said. “The German government’s nuclear energy decisions alone had a negative impact on the result of well over one billion euros.”

In the wake of the nuclear disaster in Fukushima, Japan, last year, the German government decided to phase out nuclear power, forcing energy suppliers to shut down their profitable large-scale power plants and also levying a tax on the reactors’ fuel for their remaining lifespan.

In addition, lower sales prices on the gas wholesale market and “persistently low margins in the electricity generating business all had an adverse effect on business performance,” the group complained.

Nevertheless, chief executive Juergen Grossmann said RWE had undertaken measures “to get us through the trough quickly.”

RWE was “therefore confident of maintaining the level of the previous year in 2012,” he said, predicting that the trend would also continue into 2013 when “we still expect to be on a par with the result of 2011 this year, too.”


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Sweden to stop local governments blocking wind parks in final stages

Sweden's government has proposed a new law which will remove local municipalities' power to block wind parks in the final stages of the planning process, as part of a four-point plan to speed up the expansion of wind power.

Sweden to stop local governments blocking wind parks in final stages

“We are doing this to meet the increased need for electricity which is going to come as a result of our green industrial revolution,” Strandhäll said at a press conference. 

“It is important to strengthen Sweden by rapidly breaking our dependence on fossil fuels, building out our energy production and restructuring our industry. The Swedish people should not be dependent on countries like Russia to drive their cars or warm their homes.”

“We are going to make sure that municipalities who say “yes” to wind power get increased benefits,” she added in a press statement. “In addition, we are going to increase the speed with which wind power is built far offshore, which can generally neither be seen or heard from land.” 

While municipalities will retain a veto over wind power projects on their territory under the proposed new law, they will have to take their decision earlier in the planning process to prevent wind power developers wasting time and effort obtaining approvals only for the local government to block projects at the final stags. 

“For the local area, it’s mostly about making sure that those who feel that new wind parks noticeably affect their living environment also feel that they see positive impacts on their surroundings as a result of their establishment,” Strandhäll said.  “That might be a new sports field, an improved community hall, or other measures that might make live easier and better in places where wind power is established.” 

According to a report from the Swedish Energy Agency, about half of the wind projects planned since 2014 have managed to get approval. But in recent years opposition has been growing, with the opposition Moderate, Swedish Democrats, and Christian Democrat parties increasingly opposing projects at a municipal level. 

Municipalities frequently block wind park projects right at the end of the planning process following grassroots local campaigns. 

The government a month ago sent a committee report, or remiss, to the Council on Legislation, asking them to develop a law which will limit municipal vetoes to the early stages of the planning process. 

At the same time, the government is launching two inquiries. 

The first will look into what incentives could be given to municipalities to encourage them to allow wind farms on their land, which will deliver its recommendations at the end of March next year. In March, Strandhäll said that municipalities which approve wind farm projects should be given economic incentives to encourage them to accept projects on their land. 

The second will look into how to give the government more power over the approvals process for wind projects under Sweden’s environmental code. This will deliver its recommendations at the end of June next year.