FRANKFURT (Reuters) - Power firm RWE will seek damages if Germany decides to shut down coal-fired power plants right away, its chief executive told a weekly paper.
Germany has tasked a commission with creating a roadmap for phasing out coal as an energy source, similar to a previous landmark decision to exit nuclear energy in the wake of the Fukushima disaster in Japan.
Results are expected by the end of the year. A draft proposal seen by Reuters last week includes provision for 1.5 billion euros ($1.73 billion) in federal funds to bring new industries into coal-producing regions.
"Should the government decide an abrupt exit I would claim back what is being done to us," RWE CEO Rolf Martin Schmitz told Die Zeit in comments published on Wednesday.
"The companies would be expropriated - as was the case with nuclear energy. And they would have to be compensated for that," Schmitz said, adding he believed there were other ways to resolve the conflict.
Shares in RWE, Germany's largest power producer, fell sharply earlier this month when a court ruled that it could not start logging in an ancient forest, potentially delaying the start of lignite mining in the area until after 2020.
The decision will shave more than 100 million euros off its core earnings (EBITDA) each year from 2019, the group said. Schmitz told Die Zeit that 4,600 jobs could be lost if it cannot continue mining activities in the Hambach forest.
The commission, which includes academics, politicians, environmentalists and trade union representatives, will visit coal sites in the Rhineland on Oct. 24 and meet again the following day.
This year utilities including RWE received up to 1 billion euros after suing the government for a rushed exit from nuclear power in 2011, which they said was implemented by the government without adequate compensation.
($1 = 0.8671 euros)
(Reporting by Christoph Steitz; editing by Thomas Seythal and Jan Harvey)