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Germany's RWE sees power generation cuts due to lignite mining restrictions

Highlights

Up to 300 GWh shortfall from 0.3 mil mt lignite cut at Hambach mine

Confirms higher impact for 2019 of up to 13 TWh shortfall

7 GW at linked power plants Niederaussem, Neurath affected

London — RWE foresees a generation shortfall of up to 300 GWh this year from mining restrictions at its Hambach open-cast lignite mine, a spokesman for the German utility told S&P Global Platts Tuesday.

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Generation at the Neurath and Niederaussem power plants is already being affected by the mining restrictions and will continue to be so until further notice, the utility said in a remit note Monday.

The power stations, with a combined 7 GW installed, produced over 50 TWh in 2017, more than Belgium's entire projected output this year.

The mine has now entered so-called "stretching operations" after a court order October 5 stopped forest clearing operations needed to expand the mine.

However, lignite mining will only be reduced by some 300,000 mt for the remainder of this year, the spokesman said.

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This equated to up to 300 GWh, he said, adding that this would also depend on power price developments.

For 2019, RWE confirmed an initial assessment that lignite output will be cut by 10-15 million mt from a planned 40 million mt/year.

This will lead to an estimated 9-13 TWh/year shortfall in production from Neurath and Niederaussem in 2019, the spokesman confirmed.

RWE expects the Hambach mine court proceedings to stretch into 2020 with a final decision unlikely before end-2020.

Clashes between environmental activists and police trying to clear the Hambach forest near Cologne and extend the mine have overshadowed the work of Germany's coal commission, a broad expert commission to find ways to phase out coal in Germany.

RWE is Germany's biggest power generator thanks to its fleet of lignite and nuclear plants. Its hard coal output plunged last year following the closure of the 620 MW Voerde plant.

RWE's Gersteinwerk 2 coal plant is set to close next March. That leaves two hard-coal plants in its German fleet: the 765 MW Hamm E commissioned in 2015 and the 795 MW Ibbenbueren set to switch from domestic to import coal next year.

--Andreas Franke, andreas.franke@spglobal.com

--Edited by Jonathan Loades-Carter, jonathan.carter@spglobal.com