German utility changes tack -- RWE re-establishes wind division

The new chairman of major German utility RWE, Jürgen Grossmann, has wasted no time in efforts to reposition the company as a serious player in the renewable energy sector since he took office in October. Grossmann has announced that RWE's renewables' business is to emerge once again as a separate company division in February under the name RWE Innogy. Not much more than a year ago Grossman's predecessor, Harry Roels, had amalgamated RWE's renewables activities into the company's conventional power generation business.

In focusing on renewables, RWE joins a strong new trend among Germany utilities, which traditionally have fought against the arrival of independent wind power generators in their midst. Larger rival E.ON announced in August that its renewable energy company would begin business in the New Year and has already made good on that promise with the purchase of Airtricity's American wind power business (Windpower Monthly, November 2007) among other initiatives.

The new name of the company is inherited from RWE's acquisition of Britain's Innogy and retail brand npower in May 2002. Innogy resulted from the separation of British National Power into International Power and Innogy back in 2001. The original RWE Innogy was officially renamed RWE npower in August 2002, but the strong brand name has now resurfaced as synonymous with renewable energy. RWE, however, with heavy investments in lignite and coal generation, says it will be retaining its commitment to fossil and nuclear power.

Tipped as a potential boss of RWE's renewables business is Fritz Vahrenholt, who is due to step down as chief executive officer of turbine manufacturer Repower, owned by Suzlon, at the end of the year, moving instead to its supervisory board. RWE is yet to confirm Vahrenholt's appointment but says it "would be pleased to employ such a manager."

One billion a year

RWE intends to invest at least EUR 1 billion a year from 2008 in expanding its renewables activities, "which will be subject to the same profitability requirements as other companies of the group." It says the company's growth will be aligned with the policy targets set at European and national level. The company has its headquarters is Essen.

RWE currently operates about 2000 MW of renewables capacity, with large hydro accounting for the bulk of that at 1177 MW. Its 615 MW of wind capacity is mainly located in the UK, where it operates 400 MW, including the North Hoyle offshore plant at 60 MW. In Spain and Portugal it owns 183 MW, but in Germany only 32 MW. The company says it has a wind energy pipeline of around 2263 MW to 2020, although it does not say if any of this is planned for Germany.

In the UK, however, RWE npower is currently constructing the EUR 280 million Rhyl Flats 90 MW offshore station and four wind farms on land at a combined cost of EUR 147 million. Also in the UK, the company has applied to build the Welsh Gwynt-y-mor 750 MW offshore wind station and has rights to the Triton Knoll site in the North Sea off the east coast of England, which has potential for over 1 GW, although no application to develop the site has yet been lodged.

In France, RWE is soon to commission a 90 MW wind plant in a joint venture with Total, has another 80 MW of projects largely permitted along the French Atlantic coast, and an additional pipeline of 50-100 MW, most of which is expected to be built by 2010. In Poland it is working with Polish Energy Partners to develop 70 MW, split between the Tychowo and Suwalki wind stations. These are due for commissioning in 2009-2012 and are slated to cost EUR 100 million. And as if to demonstrate its international reach, RWE will commission an 800 kW project on the Galapagos Islands at the end of the year.

Have you registered with us yet?

Register now to enjoy more articles
and free email bulletins.

Sign up now
Already registered?
Sign in