Many of the inhabitants of Cottbus (Lusatia) who didn’t participate in the referendum in winter 2009/2010 must have had the image of Vattenfall being “the region’s partner” in mind. The referendum was against the opening of new open pit mines in the region and in favour of a future-compliant enery policy. Of course, nobody wants to bite the hand that feeds them. Shortly after, in May 2009, the information was released that Vattenfall is paying much less business tax in Lusatia, than previously assumed by the municipality. The city of Cottbus is receiving two out of 20 million Euros. The same goes for the city of Weißwasser (1,5 instead of 13 mill.) and also the power plant sites Boxberg (approx. 2 instead of 12 mill.) and Teichland are receiving less now, with their financial situation not being comparable with Cottbus’ indebtedness. This is not due to the financial crisis, but a financial restructuring within the company.(1) (At the end of 2009, the operating profit of the German-Polish company Vattenfall Europe rose by 7 % to 1,8 billion Euros.(2)) In 2009 federal minister Platzeck was fielded and was said to have flown to Stockholm because of the Cottbus business tax issue – without success. The case showed that power relations between Vattenfall and the federal government are twisted. In the beginning of 2010, the next blow presented itself: A programme called “move” is meant to save 180 million Euros, especially in staff costs.
Lignite unionists in Lusatia have to start reconsidering their views. This is how the local newspaper Lausitzer Rundschau portrays the atmosphere on an employee meeting: “First we marched with Vattenfall, now we’re being affronted.“(3) In Berlin, 3000 employees demonstrated against the planned cutbacks. In contrast to that, the Lusatian coal industry’s success messages state the following: From autumn 2009, the lignite produced in the open pit mine Jänschwalde is going to be transported to the plant via conveyor system, which shortens the transport route by 11km.(4) From April 2010, the electricity supply for the five Vattenfall open pit mines will be centrally monitored and operated by a power control system. “In order to optimize power supply, the four independent power supply sites were joined technically and organizationally.”
Does this kind of measure reduce the need for employment? And what does the future hold? From 2013, the allocation rules for cap and trade will be regulated more strictly. At the moment, most of the certificates are given to Vattenfall for free, which then will have to be bought. This could lead to a drastic reduction of profits generated by power plants like Jänschwalde, that are extremely harmful to the climate. And therefore business tax would also be reduced once again. According to plan, the open pit mine Cottbus-Nord is supposed to be closed in 2015. The mine in Reichwalde (Saxonia) is meant to replace it and is already included in the job figures mentioned today. Those who cling to lignite in the context of regional development are likely to be disappointed.
(1) Weniger Kohle von Vattenfall – Der Tagesspiegel, 25.05.2009
(2) Vattenfall Europe steigert Gewinn – Der Tagesspiegel, 11.02.2010
(3) Protest gegen Sparpläne bei Vattenfall – Lausitzer Rundschau, 03.03.2010
(4) Vattenfall press release, 01st of October 2009
(5) Vattenfall press release, 01st of April 2010