Energy suppliers RWE and Uniper are not entitled to compensation because they are forced to close their coal-fired power stations early in 2030. The court of The Hague made that ruling on Wednesday in the case that both companies brought against the Dutch state last year. RWE demanded compensation from the state of more than 1.4 billion euros, Uniper wanted a billion euros in damages.
The reason for the lawsuit is the decision of the Rutte III cabinet in 2017 to ban the generation of energy via coal from 2030. This law should help the Netherlands to achieve the climate goals. At the time of announcement, the power stations of RWE and Uniper had just opened: the power station in Eemshaven (RWE) was commissioned in 2015, the power station on Maasvlakte 2 (Uniper) a year later.
The two German energy companies claimed that the closure violated their property rights. According to them, the so-called Coal Ban Act (Wvk) is unlawful because it does not provide “adequate financial compensation” for the damage they suffer as a result. Without government intervention, both power stations could continue to run for decades: the lifespan of a power station is about forty years.
However, the court in The Hague does not consider compensation for those future losses to be necessary. According to the court, the Wvk does infringe property rights, but this is not unlawful. “The measures that the state has taken with the law to reduce the CO2emissions are proportional. The interests of the owners have been sufficiently taken into account.”
What is taken into account in the decision is that RWE and Uniper could already foresee before they started building their power plants that they could be confronted with ‘CO during their lifetime’.2emission-reducing government measures”. They could have anticipated this by taking measures themselves much earlier: by capturing the emissions or switching to biomass.
According to the court, both companies still have every opportunity to do so even after the cabinet decision: the ban did not take effect immediately when the law was passed, but there was a ‘bridging period’. In that period, RWE and Uniper can still realize revenues and limit their damage. In addition, they can use the time until 2030 to ‘examine other uses for the power plants’.
Uniper and RWE say in a response to the ANP news agency that they are disappointed in the verdict. “We believe that interference with our property without compensation is not acceptable. We will continue to study the ruling and will consider whether to appeal,” said an RWE spokesperson.
“When a company makes long-term investments, the rules should not be changed along the way,” said a spokesman for Uniper. “We have to take this into account in future investments.”
In addition to the power stations of the two German producers in Eemshaven and on Maasvlakte 2, the Netherlands also has two coal-fired power stations: an Onyx power station on the Maasvlakte and an RWE power station in Geertruidenberg. The first was initially supposed to close early, but the owner later reversed that decision. The power station in Geertruidenberg burns a mix of coal and biomass and must be completely converted to renewable fuel in just over two years.
A version of this article also appeared in the December 1, 2022 newspaper