'Fossil-mad utilities missed RE bus'

The failure of Europe’s top 10 utilities to jump on the renewable energy bandwagon in time while investing excessively in fossil power generation could precipitate their demise, a report released by Greenpeace today claims.

The EU’s energy giants still produce more than half of Europe’s power, but only 4% of that comes from non-hydro renewable sources says the report, Locked in the Past – Why Europe’s Big Energy Companies Fear Change.

Despite slowing demand, the energy companies have added 85GW in fossil capacity over the last ten years. That was a gross misjudgement, Greenpeace argues, as according to analysts about 50GW of fossil fuel capacity will have to be mothballed in Europe by 2017 if companies want to maintain their diminished 2012 profit levels.

“Europe’s energy companies are wounded animals with bleeding profits and a gloomy outlook,” says Greenpeace EU energy & transport policy director Franziska Achterberg.

“So far, their response has been to vent their rage at renewables and lobby aggressively against any policies that help secure an energy transformation. But failure to adopt will only make it harder to defend their alpha-male status in an increasingly challenging environment that could spell their downfall.”

Large power companies now need to redesign their strategies and agree to ambitious and binding 2030 EU targets, not only for greenhouse gas reduction, but also for renewables, Greenpeace demands.

Powerful utilities attack renewable energy policies even though some of them, like Iberdrola, E.ON and Enel are estimated to have made up to €5bn ($6.83bn) in annual earnings from their RE businesses, Greenpeace claims.

German utilities RWE, EnBW and E.ON will present their 2013 full-year results in the coming two weeks, with analysts pessimistic in particular about RWE.