RWE rejects fresh calls for end to coal generation

BERLIN, Jan 19 (Reuters) - RWE, Germany’s largest power producer, rejected on Tuesday fresh calls from opposition parties and environmentalists to phase out coal power generation.

The discussion over the technology’s damaging carbon emissions was given fresh impetus by the multi-nation climate protection deal struck in Paris last month, resulting in renewed calls on the German government to exit coal in parallel to nuclear energy, which will be abandoned by 2022.

“I think the whole debate (about exiting coal) is unnecessary,” RWE Chief Operating Officer Rolf Martin Schmitz told Reuters on the sidelines of an industry event about the country’s strategy to shift away from conventional energy towards renewables, called the Energiewende.

“I’m very relaxed about this,” he added. “I don’t think that politicians will react to this.”

Coal accounted for 60 percent of electricity production at RWE in 2014, while the share at rival E.ON was 27 percent.

The utilities have stressed that steps undertaken in 2015 to move domestic brown coal plants into a reserve scheme later this decade, as well as dismal power generation profits, were sufficient to see the gradual end of coal burning.

Coal-to-power production employs not just tens of thousands of people, but is needed to provide round-the-clock power to Europe’s biggest economy which cannot solely rely on volatile green power, they argue.

The government wants Germany to have 80 percent of power provided by renewables by 2050. In 2015, the share was 30 percent, data from industry group BDEW show. However, brown coal and imported hard coal together still accounted for 42 percent.

“RWE has a clear plan (for coal) until 2050. We are able to provide sufficient power at decent prices until then,” Schmitz said. (Reporting by Vera Eckert, Tom Kaeckenhoff and Christoph Steitz; Editing by Mark Potter)