March 13, 2020 / 10:58 AM / 16 days ago

Fortum calls Uniper greener strategy a step in the right direction

* Uniper going ahead with coal plant

* Says it can still aim for carbon neutrality

* But carbon neutral goal excludes Russia

Helsinki, March 13 (Reuters) - Energy group Uniper’s new strategy to shift towards greener generation is a step in the right direction, Finland’s Fortum, its major shareholder that has been trying to take over its German peer, said on Friday.

In a strategy update, Uniper said on Wednesday it would shut down most of its German coal-fired plants by 2025, but would as planned in June start up its new Datteln4 coal plant, which is expected to operate until 2040.

As Germany intends to exit coal as an energy source by 2038, Uniper’s Chief Executive promised the company’s energy production would be carbon neutral by 2035 despite Datteln4’s emissions.

“Uniper’s strategy is a clear step in the right direction and underlines the strategic rationale of Fortum’s investment in Uniper. We are especially pleased about Uniper’s commitment to develop a clean energy portfolio,” Fortum’s outgoing Chief Executive Pekka Lundmark said in a statement on Friday.

Fortum said it was understandable that Uniper’s carbon neutrality target excluded its Russian operations because of Russia’s dependence on fossil fuels.

As the largest renewable energy investor in Russia, however, Fortum would like discussions with Uniper and the Russian authorities on implementing the 2015 United Nations Paris Agreement on Climate Change, it said.

Lundmark was hired by Nokia and will succeed Rajeev Suri as Nokia chief executive in September.

Uniper’s management initially resisted any takeover by Fortum, which has been trying to gain control of its German peer for over two years.

Uniper’s Chief Executive Andreas Schierenbeck on Wednesday told reporters regular conversations between the top management of both companies were ongoing.

“We will continue our constructive communication with a new Fortum CEO,” he said. (Reporting by Anne Kauranen; editing by Barbara Lewis)

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