As a result of the exit from nuclear energy adopted by the German Parliament (‘Bundestag’) in June 2011, part of the low-cost electricity for the base load has been eliminated. The absent generation capacities can currently only be replaced by conventional power stations at reasonable prices.
RWE is in a relatively favourable position. We are able to fall back on large reserves of cost-effective lignite. The reserve licenced for extraction will last for the next 30–40 years. We operate three major opencast mines in Germany (RWE Power) and two smaller mines in Hungary (MATRAI EROMÜ) where we produce around 110 million metric t of lignite each year. 101 million metric t of this lignite are used to generate electricity and the remaining 9.2 million metric t are refined to manufacture lignite products. In 2012, commercial operation of the lignite-fired power station with ‘Optimised Units’ (BoA 2&3) started up with a net output of around 2,100 MW. This is a central part of our power plant renewal programme. The new power station provides cost-effective power generation and can flexibly adjust its output to the prevailing electricity demand and the fluctuating feed-in from renewable energies. By comparison with the existing power stations, which were decommissioned when this plant came on stream, the new power station emits up to 6 million metric t less CO2 each year at equivalent levels of electricity generation on account of its high level of efficiency. Two coal-fired power stations are currently also being constructed, each with more than 1,500 MW of output. Overall, RWE had generating capacity amounting to almost 11,100 MW from lignite-fired power stations and around 7,600 MW from coal-fired power stations at the end of 2012, not including contracted power stations.
We are able to significantly reduce our CO2 emissions by co-combustion of biomass in coal-fired power stations. Substantial quantities of biomass are used in the Amer (Netherlands) and Mátra (Hungary) coal-fired powers stations. We have also converted three units to the combustion of biomass at the Tilbury coal-fired power station in the United Kingdom. This means that our capacity for generating electricity from renewable energies also increased significantly in conventional power stations during 2012.
Additionally, we significantly expanded the capacity of our gas-fired power stations in 2012 to a current level of nearly 15,600 MW when the Pembroke power station (United Kingdom, 2,181 MW) and Claus C and Moerdijk 2 (Netherlands, 1,304 MW and 426 MW respectively) came on stream.
The fossil-fired power stations were essentially operated by RWE Power, Essent, RWE npower and MATRAI EROMÜ at the close of 2012. Since 1 January 2013, the newly established RWE Generation has been responsible for the construction and operation of our power stations in Germany, the Netherlands, the United Kingdom and Turkey. The lignite-fired opencast mines and power stations, the refinement facilities, and the hydropower plants and nuclear power stations continue to be operated by RWE Power, which is integrated within RWE Generation. After shutting down the Biblis A and B power stations, we still have 3,901 MW capacity of nuclear energy. Following the exit from nuclear energy adopted by the German Parliament (‘Bundestag’) in June 2011 our last nuclear power station is scheduled to exit from the grid in 2022.
When we established RWE Innogy in 2008, we launched a systematic and rapid expansion of renewable energies. RWE Innogy bundles the expertise and power plants of the RWE Group in the field of renewable energies. Our target market is Europe. One focus of activities is on offshore and onshore wind power projects. However, RWE Innogy is also involved in hydropower plants and biomass. At the same time, we support the development of future technologies, such as biogas plants and solar thermal plants, as well as investing in innovative companies. We support them in their start-up and growth phase and provide pump-priming financial assistance for a limited period of time.
At the end of 2012, the entire RWE Group had consolidated generating capacity from renewable energies amounting to 4,133 MW, of which 802 MW was hydropower, 2,165 MW was wind energy and 1,161 MW was biomass.
So far, RWE has only erected a limited number of photovoltaic plants. Our focus in the utilisation of solar energy has been on the development of thermal solar power plants. In Spain, we joined forces with partners in 2011 to operate the solar thermal power plant Andasol 3, which generates an output of 50 MW. In the future, this could form the basis for further projects in North Africa in the context of the Desertec initiative. At the close of 2012, our total power station capacity amounted to 45,354 MW plus an additional 6,623 MW capacity with contracted power stations, with long-term contracts providing us with access to their capacities.