Continued Operation of Datteln Power Plant Units 1-3 in 2013

It looks like E.ON may continue operating its coal-fired power plant units 1 to 3 in Datteln even if the present operation permit expires at the end of 2012. 

The  Environment Ministry of the State of North Rhine-Westphalia may tolerate (dulden) the operation of the plants based on an extended shutdown order (gestreckte Stillegungsverfügung), the ministry announced after talks with Bezirksregierung Münster (Münster District Administration) and E.ON.

The decision shall ensure that the power plant units may continue to generate 16.7 Hz railway power and district heat after 31 December 2012. In 2006 E.ON had declared not to continue operating the plants beyond that date due to otherwise applicable upgrading requirements. In late 2010 E.ON tried to withdraw these declarations following a decision by the Higher Administrative Court of Münster (OVG Münster) that stopped construction of the planned new Datteln 4 power plant (please see below). In two rulings handed down this year, OVG Münster decided that E.ON could not withdraw its declaration to discontinue  the operation of the Datteln power plant units 1 to 3.

In an interview with Westdeutsche Allgemeine Zeitung (WAZ) Deutsche Bahn CEO Rüdiger Grube had recently called on the state of North Rhine-Westphalia to decide quickly about postponing the shutdown of the Datteln power plant units that provide 75% of the 16.7 Hz railway power. Up to 30% of the train services might have to be cancelled on cold days should Datteln go offline in December, he warned.

“Should the Federal Administrative Court (Bundesverwaltungsgericht) confirm the decision of OVG Münster (that E.ON could not retract the declarations to discontinue operating Datteln 1 to 3) in mid-November, the formal tolerance (formelle Duldung) may take effect”, NRW Environment Johannes Remmel said. This was the result of intensive talks and a comprehensive examination, he further said. He pointed out that tolerating the operation of a plant without a legal permit was only possible in exceptional cases. The exception applies here since the generation of railway power and district heat are in the interest of the public. It had also been carefully examined if and which alternatives existed, he added.

E.ON was building a converter for railway current in Datteln that will be operational in 2014, the environment ministry said. A permit for the converter had been granted in August 2012 by the District Administration in Münster. Besides the existing boiler of the Datteln power plant shall receive a new permit as of 2014 so as to ensure the supply with district heat. The ministry pointed out that the tolerance was conditional upon material compliance of the power plant units with the requirements of the environmental law. This would be reviewed by regular inspections, the ministry said.

E.ON intends to replace the Datteln 1 to 3 power units by the new, more efficient Datteln 4 power plant. However, in September 2009 OVG Münster revoked the zoning plan (Bebauungsplan) for the area in which the Datteln 4 project is situated. Currently efforts are under way to set up a new zoning plan, but it is not yet clear if and when E.ON can continue construction. In June this year OVG Münster also revoked the preliminary permit (Vorbescheid) for Datteln 4.

Source: Ministry for Climate Protection, Environment, Agriculture, Nature and Consumer Protection of the State of North Rhine-Westphalia

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