Ben Jasper, Greenpeace climate campaigner in the Czech Republic writes...

In January, the Federated States of Micronesia (FSM) brought new optimism to the post UN Climate Summit blues - by stepping into the debate about the Czech Republic’s largest coal-fired power plant, Prunerov, owned by the energy company ČEZ.

The FSM submitted an official viewpoint to the Czech Ministry of Environment raising concerns about the power plant’s CO2 emissions contributing to global climate change, which is causing harm to vulnerable countries such as the low lying Pacific islands of the FSM. Despite their concerns being supported by independent expert analysis, ČEZ refused to let the legitimate concerns of a small island developing state get in the way of its business plan. And a former ČEZ employee, Rut Bizkova, was appointed as Environment Minister earlier this year - tasked with getting governmental approval for the plant's Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA). The subsequent EIA approval came as no surprise to us and was clearly a shamefully manipulated political decision, which did not respect expert analysis. This Prunerov debacle is by no means the only time that ČEZ has undermined climate action with dirtied politics.

This week, in response to ČEZ’s underhanded tactics, we presented their management group with a dossier at their Annual General Meeting in Prague -- to ensure shareholders are aware of the dirty truths behind ČEZ’s dealings. The dossier highlights the many ways in which the company has manipulated Czech politics by bending rules to avoid pollution controls and saving money at the expense of climate protection. Petitions were also given directly to ČEZ’s Vice-Chairman of the Board of Directors, Daniel Benes, from local residents rejecting ČEZ’s plans for the expansion of Prunerov II brown coal-fired power plant where our activists recently took action.

The ČEZ Group is the 7th largest energy company Europe - earning record profits of around 2 billion euros in 2009 - mostly from coal fired power plants. Many key politicians here in the Czech Republic have worked for ČEZ and these are often the strings which ČEZ pulls in order to get government backing for its dirty energy projects. Some people here even joke grimly that the country’s name should be changed to the “ČEZ Republic” to reflect accurately who holds the real power there.

In June 2009, the Czech parliament agreed to give ČEZ the maximum possible carbon emissions allowances for the period starting in 2013. These allowances would potentially be worth 2.6 billion euros for the state budget if auctioned, but instead the government wants to hand them to the richest Czech company - for free!

Czech residents pay amongst the highest electricity prices in Europe and with 74% of the Czech market, ČEZ is the controlling force there. The company makes hundreds of millions of euros each year by exporting electricity generated in the Czech Republic to Germany, Austria and Slovakia. In doing this, ČEZ burns large amounts of dirty fossil fuels and releases millions of tons of climate changing emissions in the global atmosphere. People all over the planet - especially in vulnerable areas like the FSM - are suffering the impacts while ČEZ makes record profits.

Now this is all very doom and gloom and it may seems like the situation is out of control - but at least the suspicions of foul play are being raised and several investigations have been initiated to look into improper conduct by the company. An unannounced raid last November by the European Commission on ČEZ’s Prague headquarters may have been obstructed by ČEZ after it is believed a leak allowed the company time to shred documents and erase files which could have provided incriminating evidence.

We're calling on the Czech government to stop free allocations of emissions allowances for ČEZ and the entire energy sector after 2012. And we're demanding that the government refuse ČEZ permission to use dirty, inefficient technology at Prunerov.

Energy companies such as ČEZ must become part of the solution to climate change by embracing the Energy [R]evolution. If they did then ČEZ’s shareholders would have a clean business to really be proud of.


>> Read more and download the dossier (in Czech - English version coming soon).


Image: Greenpeace action at Prunerov Power Station. 03/23/2010Greenpeace activists hold a banner suspended from the top of the 300 metre high smokestack of the Prunerov II brown coal-fired power station. © Jiri Rezac / Greenpeace