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RWE fires up new 2.2 GW coal-burning power plant in Germany; 43% efficient and flexible to respond to renewables intermittency

RWE officially commissioned its new 2.2 GW lignite-powered generating unit in Grevenbroich-Neurath near Cologne. With a 43% efficiency rating and flexibility designed to offset the intermittency of wind and solar power, the twin-unit BoA 2&3 plant is the world’s most advanced lignite coal-fired production power station, according to the company. The total investment of €2.6 billion (US$3.2 billion) is one of the largest ever made by RWE.

The new optimized units reduce the specific CO2 emissions from 1.32 metric tons/MWh—typical for an old lignite-fired power plant with 30% efficiency—to the level of 0.92 metric tons/MWh with the advanced lignite-fired power station with 43% efficiency. Combined with the shutdown of older lignite plants, the new optimized BoA 2&3 units will raise the average efficiency of RWE lignite-fired power stations from 33% to around 36% in 2013.

RWE is one of Europe’s five leading electricity and gas companies and is the Nº 1 power producer in Germany, Nº 2 in the Netherlands and Nº 3 in the UK.

At the commissioning ceremony, Premier of the State of North Rhine-Westphalia Hannelore Kraft, Federal Minister for the Environment Peter Altmaier and RWE CEO Peter Terium demonstrated the plant’s flexibility.

Instead of the usual start signal, they gave the order for a rapid reduction in electricity production. Within five minutes, the output of one unit was reduced by more than 150 MW, and then equally rapidly restored, demonstrating the power station’s ability to offset intermittency of renewables.

The energy industry transformation decided upon last year [the shuttering of nuclear power and shift to renewables] is a huge challenge for all areas of society. To make it a success, everyone needs to pull together: the Federal Government, the states and the municipalities, but also the energy utilities and companies. The aim is to generate all electricity from renewable sources. On the path to achieving this, we also need power plants fired by fossil fuels. This includes highly efficient lignite-fired power plants. But lignite firing must become more environmentally friendly. Therefore, commissioning the BoA 2&3 power plant is the right step at the right time as damaging emissions will be avoided and at the same time an important contribution to security of supply will be made.

—Premier Kraft

RWE is doing exactly what the transformation of the German energy industry is all about. We are investing heavily in renewables and in the distribution systems. We are doing much to improve energy efficiency and develop new concepts for grid integration of renewables. And we are modernizing our conventional power plant portfolio.

BoA 2&3 is an important element of our strategy, for modern coal and gas-fired power stations are indispensable. Unlike wind and solar sources, they are highly flexible and capable of producing electricity 24/7, which makes them the trump card of energy industry transformation.

—Peter Terium

RWE placed great emphasis on the rapid responsiveness of the plant. Each unit can modify its output by 500 MW in just 15 minutes; with a total capacity of 1,000 MW at its disposal, it produces more than 400 wind turbines can, and at a speed that rivals the very latest gas-fired power plants. BoA 2&3 is capable of producing around 16 billion kilowatts of electricity annually—enough to meet the needs of more than 3.4 million households.



Too bad that NG was not used to further increase potential efficiency while reducing GHG. There must be a lot of undiscovered shale gas in Germany?

Nick Lyons

Replacing zero-emissions nuclear with coal (sigh).


What Nick said.  It's another triumph of paranoia over facts and the environment.


Selling this as a companion of inefficient, unreliable, and intermittent Wind and Solar is probably the only way to obtain the right to build new cleaner coal plants. I would have thought a combined coal and gas cycle would have been more efficient; but it might not be as flexible as a load following peaking plant.

Still nuclear is cleaner and more reliable.

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