Greenpeace Germany Protests Brown Coal Power Stations
COLOGNE, Germany, May 28, 2004 (ENS) - German energy firm RWE has come under pressure from environmental groups to shift out of brown coal, known as lignite, for electricity production. Some 50 Greenpeace activists on Wednesday chained themselves to excavators and other equipment at the site of a new lignite power station in Cologne being built by RWE.
Greenpeacers described the site as an "unreal moon landscape" dotted with "gigantic, bucket wheel excavators lit by headlights, 96 meters high and 200 meters long."
They displayed protest banners reading, "Coal Kills the Climate."
Lignite is the lowest rank of coal, used almost exclusively as fuel for steam-electric power generation. It is brownish-black and has a high inherent moisture content, sometimes as high as 45 percent.
Greenpeace protesters at the RWE power state under construction in Cologne. (Photo courtesy Greenpeace Germany)RWE burns large quantities of lignite, which produces high levels of carbon dioxide per kilowatt hour of electricity produced. Carbon dioxide is the main greenhouse gas responsible for global warming. It blankets the planet, trapping the heat of the Sun close to the Earth.
In a new report, WWF Germany said that the firm could switch to gas-fired power without adding to the cost of producing electricity.
"With brown coal there is no climatic protection," said Greenpeacer Sven Teske. Even in new brown coal power stations still 750 grams of carbon dioxide are emitted per kilowatt-hour. By comparison, with modern gas-fired power stations there 370 grams emitted, with electricity from wind power only 11 grams of carbon dioxide are emitted."
Greenpeace Germany warns that climatic change has already begun. Glaciers are melting and other consequences can no longer be denied. Still, German industry and politicians are not reacting quickly enough to this threat, says the group, which is calling for a halt to all new brown coal power stations.
RWE is planning to upgrade existing lignite-fuelled power stations and invest in new ones to make up for capacity lost from the government's abolition of nuclear power.
In its new report WWF has calculated that RWE could cut its carbon dioxide emissions by one third without increasing costs by shifting from lignite to natural gas. The company was unable to comment on the report on Thursday.
But RWE says that as a company policy environmental protection is "at the heart" of its sustainability management activities. "We have laid down requirements for environmental management at the Group companies, established coordination bodies and introduced a comprehensive system of environmental reporting and reviews, in order to ensure that environmental protection is organized as efficiently as possible," the company declares on its website.
The company is moving in the direction of clean power in the form of hydrogen fuel cells. Since 1991, RWE has been engaged in development projects with different fuel cell manufacturers and in numerous demonstration projects. Since March 2002, the Group's fuel cell project was spun off into a separate company, RWE Fuel Cells GmbH.