By Gwladys Fouche
OSLO (Reuters) - Green groups have urged Norway's $1 trillion wealth fund to sell its small stake in German power firm RWE <RWEG.DE>, saying the company is a heavy polluter due to its coal-fired plants.
Greenpeace said in a report published on Tuesday that it was "disgraceful" that the world's largest sovereign wealth fund was still invested in RWE.
RWE is Germany's largest power producer and operates a number of coal-fired power plants.
The report, entitled "Last Gasp: The coal companies making Europe sick", was co-authored by Greenpeace, the Sandbag climate think-tank and other environmentalists.
It used a European Commission-approved atmospheric model to estimate how coal power plant emissions impact pollution levels in the air over Europe and found RWE to be the worst offender.
RWE said it was unable to comment specifically on the report as it had not seen it.
However, it said that all its coal-fired power stations fully complied with the emission limits established by law and the authorities.
"The legislator's intention is to keep human health from being jeopardized, with the limits having the greatest protective effect on senior citizens and children. We constantly work on further reducing our specific emissions," RWE said in an emailed response to Reuters' request for comment.
"In this context, account should be taken of the fact that the emissions of our power plants – above all nitrous oxides – only account for a very small portion of the emissions in the power stations' surroundings.
Norway's wealth fund, which is mandated to divest from companies that derive more than 30 percent of their revenues or activities from coal, had a 1.36 percent stake in RWE as of the end of 2017, worth $169 million, according to the fund's own data.
"This new analysis should be a clear call for the Norwegian Government Pension Fund and other major RWE shareholders to exit the company," Martin Norman, head of Greenpeace Nordic's Sustainable Finance Campaign, told Reuters.
The wealth fund declined to comment.
Since it was mandated in 2015 to avoid companies heavily reliant on coal, the wealth fund has divested from 71 companies, mostly coal miners but also utilities using coal in their energy mix.
It has kept investments in companies that have a credible plan to reduce their share of revenues from coal and/or increase revenues from renewable energy.
It was not clear whether RWE derives more than 30 percent of its activities from coal.
The wealth fund's CEO, Yngve Slyngstad, said in an interview with Reuters last month that it was generally "very difficult" to get good data from power producers on this.
RWE said in its emailed response that it had a set a roadmap to sharply cut carbon dioxide emissions from lignite in 2015.
"The roadmap reveals that emissions will be cut by up to 50 percent by as early as 2030. It is regrettable that such facts have apparently not been considered in the report," RWE said.
RWE also said that after its asset swap transaction with German peer E.ON <EONGn.DE> is completed, it would become "Europe's third-largest renewables player".
It said renewables would account for roughly 60 percent of its earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortisation (EBITDA) and that 60 percent of its power generation portfolio would produce electricity with "low or absolutely no carbon emissions".
(Editing by Susan Fenton)