Lignite? No thanx!

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Lignite power plant near Jänschwalde

The German coal business of Vattenfall. The deadline in the bidding process for Vattenfall’s power plants and opencast mines is ending. The interest is low, many flagged already before.

Source:taz | The number of potential buyers of the lignite business of the Vattenfall Group is shrinking: Steag, a consortium of municipal electricity providers, dropped out of the bidding process, as well as the mainly state-owned Czech energy group CEZ. On Wednesday CEZ informed, “after a thorough analysis of all the opportunities and risks” they had decided against an offer.

So at the end of the bidding deadline on Wednesday, as potential buyers were still in the game, the Czech EP Holding, which is the owner of the lignite mining company Mibrag, and Vršanska Uhelna, a subsidiary of the Czech Coal group of billionaire Pavel Tykač. The Lausitz Mongolia Mining Generation AG still wants to buy as well, but they already had been pushed out of the process by Vattenfall at an early stage.

For sale is the entire German lignite business of Vattenfall. This includes the power plants – such as Jänschwalde and Schwarze Pumpe – and the corresponding open-cast mines in the Lausitz region. Originally it was about 2 or 3 billion € which the company hoped to achieve, but now industry insiders assume that at best a mid three-digit millions amount can be achieved.

This is partly due to the sharp drop in electricity prices in the wholesale, which has reduced significantly the value of the power plants, on the other hand it is due to the increasing number of critical voices in the society against the climate-damaging lignite. The Wall Street Journal reported this week, bidders would even demand a dowry of Vattenfall, because the new owner has to agree to pay not only the costs of decommissioning the power plants, but probably also the remediation of the opencast mines.

In autumn Greenpeace meddled appropriately in the bidding process and stated, they want to take over the business at a price of minus € 2 billion – i.e. at a premium rather than a purchase price. The true value of the lignite sector, thus the environmental organisation justified its bid, is negative because of the ecological costs. Then Vattenfall threw Greenpeace from the bidding procedure.

As evidenced meanwhile, the attempt of Greenpeace was not that absurd, because Steag, the company that withdrew from the process, is now proposing a private foundation, in consultation with the German trade union IG Bergbau, Chemie, Energie. This foundation should take over the lignite business and should bring it to an end on a long-term basis. “Apparently Steag learned that lignite has no future,” the civil rights movement Campact commented.

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