Since the 1960s, STEAG has been generating electricity and heat with coal-fired power plants at its Herne site.
Power plant units 1, 2 and 3 have now been decommissioned, but Unit 4, which was put into service in 1989, is still in operation. Herne will continue to play a key role in STEAG’s planning in the future: Together with the Power & Gas Division of Siemens AG, STEAG is currently building a highly efficient combined cycle power plant in Herne. It is planned to have an electrical capacity of 600 megawatts (MW), and with the thermal output of 400 MW simultaneously generated in the combined heat and power (CHP) process, the STEAG district heating subsidiary will be able to supply environmentally friendly thermal energy to around 250,000 residential units in the cities of Gelsenkirchen, Essen and Bottrop. With an overall fuel efficiency of 85 percent, the Herne combined cycle power plant will be one of the most efficient CHP plants in the world. It is scheduled to be in continuous commercial operation by the end of 2022 and will then prospectively replace Unit 4.
The struggle over the phase-out of coal-fired power generation went on for more than two years: Experts were consulted, specialist committees were involved and the Commission for Growth, Structural Change and Employment was convened. Joachim Rumstadt was also asked for his expert opinion by the Parliamentary Committee for Economic Affairs and Energy as part of the legislative consultation process. But since July 3, there has been no turning back. “The political and public will to terminate coal-fired power generation in Germany by the end of 2038 is now enshrined in a law,” said the Chairman of STEAG’s Management Board after the passing of the Act on the Termination of Power Generation from Coal (KVBG).
In contrast to the operators of lignite-fired power plants, who are receiving large sums in compensation, the German government does not guarantee any planning security to energy producers like STEAG, who generate electricity and heat in coal-fired power plants, with the KVBG. This applies, of all things, to the most modern and efficient plants. “A point of criticism is that the decision on the further fate of these power plants, which only went on line after 2010, was postponed without making any clear arrangements to which future governments would also be bound,” Joachim Rumstadt states.
“A point of criticism is that the decision on the further fate of these power plants, which only went on line after 2010, was postponed without making any clear arrangements to which future governments would also be bound.”
Joachim Rumstadt, Chairman of the Board of Management, STEAG GmbH
Nevertheless, the new law provides increased support – known as the coal replacement bonus – for the conversion of hard coal-fired power plants which until now have produced not only electricity but also district heating in the context of combined heat and power (CHP). As the largest district heating company in North Rhine-Westphalia with an annual heat supply of 2.3 billion kilowatt hours, this is very important for STEAG. “The coal replacement bonus, which is intended to promote the conversion of a previously hard coal-fired power plant to other, lower CO energy sources such as natural gas, is clearly to be seen in a positive light,” said the STEAG boss.
The coal phase-out in Germany was foreseeable, which is why STEAG’s management realigned the company’s generation and service portfolio some time ago. STEAG is currently continuing these efforts with great intensity in order to develop competitive solutions for the energy markets of the future: climate-friendly, distributed local and district heating based on renewable energies, construction and operation of large-scale solar energy plants, battery storage, wind farms in Germany and abroad, and investments in flexible, highly efficient and natural gas-based electricity and heat generation – STEAG is already all this today.
“It is our task to organize the irreversible exit process from coal-fired power generation,” Joachim Rumstadt summarizes. “We are tackling this with determination. Even without our hard coal-fired power plants in Germany, STEAG has good prospects for the future.”