22 May 2019
Uniper annual general meeting – Change at the top gifts Uniper an opportunity to turn its back on coal
DÜSSELDORF, 22 May 2019 – Uniper, Europe’s fifth most polluting energy company, is holding its annual AGM today at the Congress Center, in Düsseldorf. The event will be presided over by the company’s newly appointed CEO, Andreas Schierenbeck  and represents a unique opportunity for Uniper’s new leader to break with the company’s polluting practices of the past and steer Uniper into a UN Paris Climate Accord-compatible future.
Mr Schierenbeck takes the helm of a company estimated to be responsible for the premature deaths of 228 people, 5,000 asthma symptom days in children, and 80,000 lost working days with a combined total cost of €1.5 billion in 2016 alone . Given his company’s track record, Mr Schierenbeck has a responsibility to clean up Uniper and remould it into a utility fit for the 21st Century. This can only be achieved by prioritising the transition to renewable energy, and developing a strong decarbonisation plan, with the closing of its coal-powered fleet as the central pillar.
“A coal-free Europe is inevitable and coming fast. Uniper knows this, but its current strategy of reducing its exposure to coal by exploring possibilities to sell its high-carbon French assets constitutes a failure of corporate governance. Mr Schierenbeck needs to capitalise on the honeymoon period his recent appointment affords him, take a lead from Fortum CEO Pekka Lundmark and commit Uniper to a rapid energy transition, closing – not selling – its coal-powered plants,” said Kaarina Kolle, Coal Finance and Utility Coordinator, Europe Beyond Coal.
Also at the top of Mr Schierenbeck’s in-tray will be the fate of Uniper’s Datteln 4 coal-powered plant . Pekka Lundmark, CEO of Uniper’s largest shareholder, the Finnish majority state-owned energy company Fortum, has gone on record as saying that the plant should be allowed to operate until 2038 . This is contrary to the German Coal Commission’s verdict and is not compatible with the Paris Climate Accord. Furthermore, the Finnish government’s own decision to ban the use of coal to produce energy as of May 2029 places Fortum at odds with its own majority stakeholder .
“Uniper is trying to reduce its exposure to coal at minimal cost to itself. It knows that the sale of parts of its high-carbon fleet to EPH- itself a serial acquirer of polluting coal assets – is not a solution to the climate crisis. Uniper should take responsibility for its role in coal and accept the subsequent hit to its balance sheet,” said Katrin Ganswindt, climate campaigner at the German NGO Urgewald.
Alastair Clewer, Communications Officer, Europe Beyond Coal
firstname.lastname@example.org, +49 176 433 07 185 (English)
Kaarina Kolle, Coal Finance and Utility Coordinator, Europe Beyond Coal
email@example.com, +32 4 83 26 20 75 (Finnish, English)
Katrin Ganswindt, Climate Campaigner, Urgewald
firstname.lastname@example.org, +49 176 32411130 (English, German)
Moritz Schröder-Therre, Communications Director, Urgewald
email@example.com, +49 176 640 799 65 (English, German)
- Details of Andreas Schierenbeck’s appointment as Uniper CEO
- Data from a report produced in November 2018 entitled, Last Gasp: The companies making Europe sick (access here)
- Datteln 4 is currently under construction in Germany’s most densely populated region, the Ruhr. It’s due to be brought online in 2020, which contradicts the recommendations of the German Coal Commission and is incompatible with the UN Paris Climate Agreement.
- The Finnish majority state-owned energy company Fortum is the largest stakeholder in Uniper. Pekka Lundmark, CEO of Fortum, has expressed support for brining Datteln 4 online, despite this contradicting the Finnish government’s stance on coal.
- Earlier this year, the Finnish parliament approved a proposal to ban the use of coal to produce energy from May 1, 2029.
- More information on how a coal phase-out is central to European countries meeting their commitments under the Paris Climate Agreement. If the sale of Uniper’s high-carbon assets goes ahead, EPH intends to maximise profits by keeping the plants running as long as possible, an outcome incompatible with the EU meeting its Paris climate commitments. More information on the Uniper-EPH sale negotiations here
Europe Beyond Coal is an alliance of civil society groups working to catalyse the closures of coal mines and power plants, prevent the building of any new coal projects and hasten the just transition to clean, renewable energy and energy efficiency. Our groups are devoting their time, energy and resources to this independent campaign to make Europe coal free by 2030 or sooner. www.beyond-coal.eu