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Sweden’s Vattenfall: Coal to play important role in future

Radio Sweden and YLE News

In the wake of the Ukraine crisis and Germany’s nuclear shutdown, Swedish-state-owned Vattenfall is supplying even more energy from coal.

Vattenfal's chief executive officer told Swedish public television that coal power will have an important role to play in the future.

The state-owned power company, which runs Sweden’s hydro and nuclear plants, had its annual general meeting on Monday. Despite getting badly burned by buying the now-devalued Dutch company Nuon, Vattenfall has plans to buy up even more foreign coal companies.

The Swedish state is the owner of Vattenfall. The government’s representative at the meeting says that, despite setting a goal of reducing carbon emissions, the government has no objection to Vattenfall investing in coal, and leaves such decisions to the company board.

Coal remains popular in Germany

Vattenfall’s carbon emissions have increased in the past few years, by 3.4 million metric tons in 2013. That was partly because of a new coal-fired power station in Germany.

Vattenfall CEO Oystien Loseth says to Swedish television that, because of the shutting down of the country’s nuclear power stations, coal is remaining very important in Germany, and Vattenfall wants to be able to deliver. He says events in Ukraine, along with Germany’s wish to become energy self-sufficient, mean that coal will continue to be important there.

In recent years Vattenfall has invested more in coal and gas than in renewable energy. It is running a campaign in Germany saying that lignite -- or brown coal -- is the future. Swedish television reports this campaign is aimed at German villages that may have to be destroyed to make way for new brown coal mines.

And in purely financial terms the government is worried that assets that damage the climate risk becoming worthless. Vattenfall’s purchase of Nuon cause a loss of $4.57 billion in assets.

This year Vattenfall will not pay out any shareholder dividends to the Swedish state, and posted a loss of $1.98 billion.

Greens' Niinistö wants to wean Finland off coal

Meanwhile, in Finland, the Green League would like to see  that nation stop using energy generated from coal-fired power stations.

The chair of the Green League, Environment Minister Ville Niinistö, said on Saturday that he wants Finland to give up coal power. The party would like to see coal-fired power plants banned by 2025.

Government policy is that use of coal should end by that time, but no legislation to that end is planned.

Speaking at a joint meeting of the Green League’s party board and parliamentary group in Helsinki, Niinistö said that he wants to see legislation for a target demanding Finland produce at least 50 percent of its energy from renewable sources by 2030.

This story is posted on Alaska Dispatch as part of Eye on the Arctic, a collaborative partnership between public and private circumpolar media organizations.