The chief executive of Czech utility EPH has been outlining the reasons why his company has gone against the grain in purchasing coal-fired power plants around Europe at a time when the trend is going in the other direction.

The Wall Street Journal reports that EPH aims to serve as a stopgap for Europe as it makes the transition to a power grid fuelled by renewable energy sources such as wind and solar power, aiming to compensate for the intermittency of those technologies.
Tomáš David of EPH
Europe is not in the same league as the US or Russia in terms of gas resources and the Czech firm appear to be gambling on this and the requirement that many countries have to pay for capacity reserve.

“You need to have cheap, stable power plants stabilizing the system, and this is what we are operating,” chief executive Tomáš David said. His company has been accumulating coal plants throughout the Eurozone, purchasing Vattenfall’s German fleet as well as EDF and RWE plants in the UK at cut rate prices.

In the European Union, 11 countries, including France, the U.K. and Italy, are at some stage of implementing backup power systems, according to the European Commission, the bloc’s executive arm.

Mr. David told the WSJ his company can earn a profit by expanding in Eastern Europe, where energy demand is expected to increase. It intends to operate its plants until regulators tighten carbon-emissions regulations, and then convert some of its plants to burn alternative fuels.

“We have been investing in those most modern most efficient units that will probably stay economically in the system longer,” Mr. David said.

EPH communications chief Daniel Častvaj told Power Engineering International that the company’s hunger for more acquisitions has not been sated yet.

“We are still looking for interesting investment opportunities in Europe, but not coal-fired plants only. EPH operates nuclear plants in Slovakia and combined cycle gas turbines in Italy and we are also strong in renewables, such as hydro, wind and biomass.”

Asked if EPH would seek further opportunities in the UK, he said, “Yes, GB seems to be an attractive market from our point of view, regardless of Brexit.”

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