RWE shares: cultural funding instead of RWE shares (neue-deutschland.de)

View of the Natural History Museum in Münster: The proceeds from the sale of shares should also benefit museums.

Photo: imago / Rüdiger Wölk

Almost a quarter of RWE is in government hands. Almost 130 municipalities, special-purpose associations or municipal companies hold shares in the energy company. Most of them come from North Rhine-Westphalia, where RWE is also based. For a long time, the Group’s shares were an important source of income for the local authorities, as RWE paid out generous dividends. In some cities, income was an integral part of the budget. Problems at RWE in recent years, which were accompanied by losses and falling prices, also led to problems for the municipalities. In the meantime, things are looking up again at RWE. The coal phase-out brings the group billions, and the conversion to a pure energy producer is going well. The RWE share is worth something again. That and the debate about climate protection that has reached the center of society are creating new debates about the sale of RWE shares.

There was a major sale in early October. The Landschaftsverband Westfalen-Lippe (LWL), an association of municipalities that operates clinics and museums, among other things, sold a quarter of its RWE shares. The proceeds from the sale of almost 1.7 million shares amounted to over 53 million euros. Money that is now to be put into cultural funding and social projects. As the “Westfälische Nachrichten” reported, LWL director Matthias Löb originally wanted to sell three quarters of the RWE shares held. However, the CDU and SPD spoke out against this. Löb is critical of the ownership of the share certificates: “We have learned from WestLB that we, as a municipal association, cannot judge how the markets in Canada, Australia and the USA are developing.” In addition, RWE is the largest CO2 emitter in Europe. The sale of the RWE shares goes back to a resolution of the Westphalia-Lippe Regional Assembly from a year ago and only took place after the deadline set at the time.

Activists of the group “Fossil Free Münster” criticize the late sale – in 2019 they protested for the sale with a tree house in front of the LWL state house. »The fact that the LWL only manages to sell its shares the day after the deadline has expired is really an indictment. That gives a deep insight into the importance of climate protection in the landscape association, «criticized Gustav von Blanckenburg. The sale now is only a “first step in the right direction,” explains Fossil Free activist Deborah Großerwagen. But it shows that the public pressure of the climate movement is having an effect. In order to position itself clearly for climate protection, however, the association had to “sell off all of its shares in the climate killer RWE,” said Großwagen. It is also time to adopt investment guidelines that exclude investments in coal, oil and gas in the future.

Otherwise there is not much going on at the moment when it comes to the sale of RWE shares in North Rhine-Westphalia. The cities of Bochum and Düsseldorf sold their shares almost a year ago. In Düsseldorf with the dedicated goal of using the proceeds to strengthen local transport. On the other hand, Dortmund, the largest municipal RWE shareholder, is endeavoring to acquire an even greater stake in RWE. At the beginning of the year, the outgoing Mayor Ullrich Sierau commented positively on an increase. RWE is promoting the conversion to a green electricity provider and has become a reliable dividend payer again in recent years, according to his argument. This speaks in favor of increasing the stake in the city. The city of Dortmund currently holds almost four percent of RWE. How it goes there with the participation will have to be decided politically. Together with the CDU, the SPD would have a majority to hold on to RWE.

Before the local elections, which took place in mid-September, the Greens voted in favor of selling the shares. The attitude of the party, which won massively in the elections, to the sale of RWE shares is likely to be a decisive factor for the existence of the holdings in numerous cities. In Mülheim an der Ruhr, for example, there is a black-green majority and exploratory talks are ongoing. The Greens would like to sell the city’s large RWE package, but the CDU would not. In response to an nd request, a spokeswoman for the NRW Greens announced that the state association would support local parliamentary groups if they »want to promote the sale of local RWE shares«. The exchange between political groups is also promoted.

How it is also possible outside of parliament to influence the municipal energy supply is meanwhile shown by the group “Klimawende Köln”, which has been collecting signatures for a referendum since the beginning of September. Their goal: The municipal utility Rheinenergie should only produce green electricity from 2030.

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