VERBUND response to Greenpeace demand


For economic reasons, the decommissioning of the Voitsberg brown coal power plant, planned for 2006, is inevitable due to the termination of the adjoining coal mining field. VERBUND, Austria’s leading electricity company, has also repeatedly insisted that, upon close investigation of the technological, economic and ecological facts, rebuilding the power plant into a biomass power plant - requested by various sides - is not a feasible option either.

“However, should a specific space heating power plant project supported by a group of investors prove economically justifiable, we can well imagine VERBUND participating in form of an investment; this we already decided months ago with the Styrian chamber of commerce and labour,” Dipl.-Ing. Hans Haider, VERBUND General Director, comments.

According to VERBUND, Greenpeace demands to rebuild the 330 Megawatt Voitsberg power plant to a 70 MW biomass plant is totally unrealistic; moreover, it is highly questionable from an ecological perspective. VERBUND investigations have yielded that the only economically feasible option would have consisted in rebuilding the power plant to a hard coal power plant, which was rejected for ecological reasons (key word: CO2 emissions).

No less questionable is the Greenpeace demand to extract 1.5 million m3 worth of loose volume of biomass from the surrounding area, since this fuel would have to be transported with more than 20,000 large-freight trains, totalling 54 cart loads, to the power plant.

VERBUND calculations have shown that a biomass power plant yielding approx. 15 Megawatt of electrical output is sufficient for the heat supply of the greater area of Voitsberg; not, as Greenpeace suggests, a 70 MW plant. The decision regarding follow-up projects will be dependent on Styrian energy company Steirische Gas-Wärme (STGW), which supplies the region with space heating.

In order to secure Styrian electricity supplies, VERBUND is accelerating the project of a combined gas-power plant in Mellach located south of Graz, the CO2 emissions of which, at 800 MW of electrical and 250 MW of thermal output, is approximately the same as those of the Voitsberg brown coal power plant despite generating about three times as much electricity.

“In order to guarantee a sustainable supply of energy of Styria as an industrial location, VERBUND intends to invest approx. 600 million Euros in the upgrading and extension of power plants and grids within the next few years. This definitely makes more sense than wasting the money on projects that are neither economically nor ecologically justifiable,” is Mr Haider’s concluding remark.