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Uniper CEO Mulls Taking Netherlands to Court Over Coal Exit

Bloomberg logoBloomberg 3/4/2021 Vanessa Dezem and Fred Pals
Andreas Schierenbeck wearing a suit and tie: Andreas Schierenbeck, chairman of Uniper SE, pauses at the Handelsblatt Energy Summit in Berlin, Germany, on Tuesday, Jan. 21, 2020. Germany could close its last coal-fired power plant long before a 2038 deadline as the dirtiest fossil fuel gets squeezed out of the energy mix by clean electricity. © Bloomberg Andreas Schierenbeck, chairman of Uniper SE, pauses at the Handelsblatt Energy Summit in Berlin, Germany, on Tuesday, Jan. 21, 2020. Germany could close its last coal-fired power plant long before a 2038 deadline as the dirtiest fossil fuel gets squeezed out of the energy mix by clean electricity.

(Bloomberg) -- Uniper SE’s chief executive officer issued a warning to the Dutch government over its plans to close all of the nation’s coal powered plants, saying court action won’t be “excluded” if no solution is found.

The Netherlands ruled in 2019 the country would close all its coal units by the start of 2030. Utilities argue the move breaches international law. RWE AG took the administration to an arbitration court last month over the closure of one of its plants.

For its part, Uniper is looking for a negotiated solution but the company sees “legal ground” for a potential lawsuit, if no agreement is reached, on the decision to force the early closure of coal assets, CEO Andreas Schierenbeck said on Thursday.

“I think we are in good and constructive talks,” he said on a conference call with analysts. “But of course, we cannot exclude any other things,” he said, answering a question on whether Uniper would consider the same step taken by RWE.

RWE Takes Netherlands to Court Over Forced Coal Plant Closure

Utilities are pinning their hopes on being members of the International Energy Charter, a treaty set up in 1991 to protect foreign energy investments. The coal exit in Germany ensured that companies would be compensated for shuttering plants.

RWE took the Netherlands to an international arbitration court last month, after being forced to close down its Eemshaven coal plant prematurely.

“We don´t negotiate about a settlement when it comes to the law that prohibits coal,” a spokesperson for the Dutch Ministry of Economic Affairs said. “The state is of the opinion that it is not liable for alleged damage.”

Uniper is preparing to close 1,070 megawatts-Maasvlakte coal power station in the Netherlands to end operation by 2029, Schierenbeck said in a call with journalists. The Dutch government snubbed the company’s proposal to put the plant in a national power reserve to run it on biomass beyond 2030, the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung reported in August.

“We’re working with the Dutch government to reach a mutually acceptable solution,” said Schierenbeck on another call with journalists.

(Updates with Dutch government statement in the seventh paragraph)

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