Germany energy major RWE will permanently shut down five power plant units in the Rhenish mining area in Germany by the end of this month, the company announced on Tuesday. 

A total of 2.1GW of lignite capacity will be decommissioned as the company moves forward with its plans to phase out coal-fired power in its energy mix by 2030. Lignite is a type of low-grade coal used primarily in the production of electricity in power plants. 

The units that will close are located at the Grevenbroich-Neurath and Bergheim-Niederaussem sites in the Rhineland. The German Government had temporarily extended their operating life to boost power supplies in the country during the European energy crisis in 2022, but the relative recovery of the continent’s gas market has removed the need for backup supply, RWE said in a press statement. 

As part of its decarbonisation plans, RWE has decommissioned 12 lignite-fired power plant units with a total combined output of 4.2GW since the end of 2020. Production of briquette – compressed coal dust or peat used as fuel – was discontinued at the end of 2022, taking 120MW of fossil fuel capacity off Germany’s grid. 

RWE Power CEO Frank Weigand said: “In addition to the reliable operation of our remaining power plant units, our work in the coming years will continue to focus on preparing for the coal phase-out and final recultivation.” 

RWE added that by the end of this year, the 300MW Block F unit at the Weisweiler power plant will be shut down. This will bring the number of operational coal units in the area down from 20 to seven by 2025. Lignite capacity in the Rhineland will then only amount to around half of the original total power plant capacity. Further closures are planned over the next few years, the company said. 

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The energy major has recently made several significant pledges to increase investment in renewable energy sources. In November, the company announced that it will invest €55bn ($60.42bn) in green energy projects across the world between 2024 and 2030. It also set a target to expand its green portfolio from the existing 35GW attained since 2021 to more than 65GW by 2030.  

In Germany, the company has plans to invest up to €11bn in renewables including offshore and onshore wind power, solar, storage, flexible backup capacities and hydrogen by the end of the decade.