German utility giant looks towards future of "clean electricity" at shareholders' meeting

Source: Xinhua| 2019-05-03 23:22:40|Editor: Mu Xuequan
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BERLIN, May 3 (Xinhua) -- Martin Schmitz, chief executive officer (CEO) of the German electric utilities company RWE, opened the company's annual general meeting on Friday by highlighting its planned conversion into a green power producer.

"Generating clean and safe electricity, this is our goal," said Schmitz at the meeting in the city of Essen.

The company's deal with the international private energy company E.ON is expected to transform RWE into one of the world's leading producers of electricity from renewable sources and give "our company excellent prospects for the future", added Schmitz.

The transaction, which will see RWE acquire E.ON's renewable assets while retaining those of Germany-based energy company Innogy, will make RWE the third largest producer of renewable electricity in Europe.

"We want to be the growth engine for the energy world of tomorrow," emphasized the CEO to shareholders.

Thomas Deser, portfolio manager at Union Investment, praised RWE for regaining a "clear perspective for the future" through the renewables deal with E.ON.

"The dinosaur RWE has survived the political ice age and, in a single stroke, is now a global player in renewable energies," noted Deser.

Ernst Gerlach, managing director of the association of municipal RWE shareholders (VKA), which holds around 20 percent of RWE shares, also complimented the new strategy as opening up a "responsible future perspective" for RWE.

Outside the meeting venue, climate activists gathered to demonstrate against RWE for its continued use of coal-fired power plants.

Environmentalists, including those from the "Fridays For Future" movement and non-governmental organizations (NGOs), took part in the demonstrations, holding up posters with statements such as "lignite insanity, we can no longer afford it".

"The company must present a timetable for phasing out coal by 2030. Otherwise, investors should part with RWE," said Kaarina Kolle, finance and utility coordinator at the NGO Europe Beyond Coal.

The "Fridays For Future" movement inspired by Greta Thunberg was allowed to participate in the utility giant's meeting, represented by Luisa-Marie Neubauer, one of the most prominent faces of the campaign in Germany.

Neubauer, who gained the right to speak at the meeting through the Association of Ethical Shareholders Germany, called for a rapid phase-out of coal-fired power generation.

"No other company in Europe bears more responsibility for the climate crisis than RWE," reminded Neubauer.

The RWE CEO welcomed the "Fridays For Future" movement, saying that "climate and environmental protection are challenges for all generations, a task for society as a whole. It is worth it to raise your voice."

RWE is the largest electricity producer in Germany. The company is primarily criticized by environmentalists for its lignite-fired power plants and the dredging of opencast mines in the Rhineland region.

Back in 2016, RWE outsourced its green electricity power plants, grid and sales business to its subsidiary Innogy.

Since then, RWE has been primarily producing electricity through conventional gas plants as well as nuclear and coal-fired power plants, according to recent data from the company.

The German coal commission's recent recommendations for the country to phase out coal-fired power generation by 2038 were not met with enthusiasm from RWE CEO Schmitz, but he did reiterate that he "accepts" the recommendations at the company's general meeting on Friday.