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Czech Republic's CEZ to close over 1 GW of coal plant by mid-2020

Prague — CEZ is to close just over 1 GW of coal-fired capacity by mid-2020, the Czech generator confirmed Wednesday.

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CEZ general director and board chairman Daniel Benes told Czech newspaper E15 it was not economically viable to operate the capacity beyond the mid-2020 given the cost of upgrades required under European air quality controls. CEZ spokesman Ladislav Kriz confirmed the comments.

The broad outlines of Czech plans to close aging coal-fired power plants are outlined in national energy policy, but this is the first time that CEZ has put a figure on short-term closures and named specific plants.

Capacity to close by the middle of next year are Prunerov-1, with four units and total capacity of 440 MW, the 500 MW Melnik-3, and one of two 110 MW units at Melnik-2. The remaining Melnik unit is to focus on heat production for Prague, around 40 km away.

CEZ coal plants generated 27.7 TWh in 2018 out of the company's total production of 63.1 TWh. The target for 2019 is for coal-fired power plants to produce 29.8 TWh.

Speaking at the company's annual results presentation March 19, CEZ managers said they were prepared to look again at investing in renewables in the Czech Republic because they doubted EU climate and energy targets for 2030 and beyond could otherwise be met.

CEZ has largely avoided investing in renewables on its home market following controversy over expensive state subsidies for solar power which sparked a solar boom in 2009 and 2010.

The Czech Republic's national energy strategy adopted in 2015 sees most coal-fired power plants being closed by 2045, but with some capacity remaining until 2050.

Under the EU Industrial Emissions Directive, European member states must meet revised standards for emissions of nitrogen and sulfur oxides, particulates and mercury by July 1, 2020.

Large combustion plants that fail to meet the new standards must either close or reduce operations to 1,500 hours/year.

--Chris Johnstone, newsdesk@spglobal.com

--Edited by Jonathan Fox, newsdesk@spglobal.com