European Commission Takes Germany to Court for Coal-fired Power Plant in Hamburg on Habitats Directive Arguments

Only about a month after the first 827 MW unit of Vattenfall’s coal-fired power plant in Hamburg-Moorburg started commercial production, the European Commission announced to launch proceedings against Germany before the Court of Justice of the EU over its alleged failure to apply the requirements of the Habitats Directive when authorising the plant.

The Commission justifies the proceedings as follows:

The project in question risks having a negative impact on a number of protected fish species including salmon, European river lamprey and sea lamprey, which pass near the power plant when migrating from the North Sea to some 30 Natura 2000 sites on the Elbe, upstream of Hamburg. The species are harmed by the water abstraction process used to cool the power plant. When authorising the plant, Germany failed to carry out an appropriate assessment as required by the Directive, and to assess alternative cooling processes which could avoid the killing of the protected species concerned.”

Germany was sent a reasoned opinion on this matter in November 2014, but continued to refuse to conduct an assessment of viable alternatives, the Commission said.

According to Vattenfall, the Moorburg power plant has an efficiency of up to 46.5% and is one of the most modern of its kind in Europe. With the commissioning of the second power plant unit that is planned for the middle of the year the then 1,654 MW plant shall save about 2.3 million tonnes of CO2. The units can be started or shut down within 15 minutes by up to 300 MW.

Regarding plans by the Energy ministry to make conventional power plants save an extra 22 billion tonnes of CO2 in the period up to 2020, please see here.

Source: European Commission

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