Energy giant pulls plug on nuclear power

German power giant RWE will build no more nuclear power stations - not only in Germany, where nuclear power is to be phased out by 2022 - but anywhere in the world, the company announced on Monday.

Energy giant pulls plug on nuclear power
Photo: DPA

RWE “will not build any nuclear power plants abroad,” a company spokeswoman said, confirming a corresponding report in the Süddeutsche Zeitung daily.

At the end of March, RWE and its bigger rival E.ON decided they would pull out of their British nuclear power joint venture, Horizon Nuclear Power, the spokeswoman pointed out.

The Süddeutsche Zeitung newspaper said the management of Germany’s second biggest energy company held a secret meeting in an exclusive hotel in Istanbul on Friday and Saturday to discuss the major strategy change.

Peter Terium, RWE’s incoming CEO, who is to take over the company in July, told the company’s 200 most senior managers that he was planning a major overhaul of the company, the paper said.

The new plan is to pull out of the nuclear power business completely, and invest heavily in solar, in Germany and elsewhere, the paper said.

The news is a significant change of course for a company previously considered one of the most vehement defenders of nuclear power. RWE made a statement in March announcing that Germany’s transition from nuclear to renewable energy, announced last year, had cost it a third of its net profits.

Last week, German power suppliers also said they were suing the German government for €15 billion in lost income.

The Süddeutsche Zeitung said RWE had decided that the financial risks of building new nuclear power stations in those countries where the political will remained in favour, were too great. Huge delays in such construction projects in France and Finland have apparently convinced the company that nuclear power is not worth the financial risk.

Recent international ratings agency assessments have also threatened to downgrade nuclear power as an investment option if further nuclear safety risks are revealed, the paper said, citing unnamed company sources. This could do huge financial damage to RWE, a company currently working to pay off large debts.

Incoming CEO Terium also announced Monday that RWE could face large job cuts in the mid- to long-term. “RWE will also have to make some tough decisions,” he warned, saying the company faces major restructuring. “In three years time, the company will not have the same structures we do now.”

The Local/AFP/bk

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Norwegian battery start-up Freyr demands subsidies to complete factory

The Freyr battery start-up has halted construction of its Giga Arctic factory and demanded additional government subsidies, Norway's state broadcaster NRK has reported.

Norwegian battery start-up Freyr demands subsidies to complete factory

Jan Arve Haugan, the company’s operations director, told the broadcaster that the company would not order any more equipment until Norway’s government committed to further subsidies. 

“We are holding back further orders for prefabricated steel and concrete pending clarification on further progress,” he said. “We are keen to move forward, but we have to respect that there is a political process going on, and we have expectations that words will be put into action.” 

Freyr in April 2019 announced its plans to build the 17 billion kroner Giga Arctic in Mo i Rana, and has so far received 4 billion kroner in loans and loan guarantees from the Norwegian government. It has already started construction and hopes to complete the build by 2024-2025. 

Haugan said that the enormous subsidies for green industry in the Inflation Reduction Act voted through in the US in 2022 had changed the playing field for companies like Freyr, meaning Norway would need to increase the level of subsidies if the project was to be viable. 

Freyr in December announced plans for Giga America, a $1.3bn facility which it plans to build in Coweta, Georgia.   

“What the Americans have done, which is completely exceptional, is to provide very solid support for the renewable industry,” Haugen said. “This changes the framework conditions for a company like Freyr, and we have to take that into account.” 

Jan Christian Vestre, Norway’s industry minister, said that the government was looking at what actions to take to counter the impact of the Inflation Reduction Act, but said he was unwilling to get drawn into a subsidy battle with the US. 

“The government is working on how to upgrade our instruments and I hope that we will have further clarifications towards the summer,” he said.

“We are not going to imitate the Americans’ subsidy race. We have never competed in Norway to be the cheapest or most heavily subsidised. We have competed on competence, Norwegian labour, clean and affordable energy and being world champions in high productivity.”