Siemens is following the German government’s decision to phase out nuclear power by 2022, saying it would stop building nuclear power plants anywhere in the world.
“The chapter for us is closed,” Peter Löscher, the chief executive of the Munich-based industrial engineering giant, said in Der Spiegel, the weekly news magazine. He emphasized the company’s commitment to the growing renewable energy sector.
Siemens, which built all of Germany’s 17 nuclear power plants, is the first major company to announce such a shift in strategy. Other German companies involved in the nuclear energy industry are also reconsidering their options.
In May, shortly after the disaster in Fukushima, Japan, Chancellor Angela Merkel said the accident convinced her Germany should look to other power sources.
Nuclear power accounts for 23 percent of electricity production in Germany. The government is putting in place an ambitious plan to increase the share of electricity generated from renewable sources to 35 percent by 2020, up from around 18 percent now.
Löscher called the government’s plans for renewable energy “the project of the century.” Although the government’s goal has met with skepticism in some quarters, he said the 35 percent figure was “achievable.”
Löscher said the shift in strategy meant Siemens would drop plans to cooperate with Rosatom, the Russian state-controlled nuclear power company that is planning to build dozens of nuclear plants throughout Russia over the coming two decades. Siemens might seek cooperation with Rosatom in other areas, Löscher said.
The Siemens decision does not amount to a boycott of the nuclear energy industry. A spokesman said the company would continue to make systems that could go in nuclear power stations.
“We will provide conventional steam turbines that can be used for nuclear power plants and conventional power plants,” Alfons Benzinger, a spokesman for Siemens’s energy business, said Sunday.
The energy division is Siemens’s second-largest in terms of revenue. Last year, the conglomerate had total revenue of $105 billion (€76 billion), and net income of $5.6 billion (€4.1 billion). Of that, the energy division contributed $4.9 billion (€3.6 billion).
Benzinger said the shift in strategy would not have a negative impact on the company’s overall sales.
Siemens, which has more than 400,000 employees worldwide, makes products as diverse as high-speed trains and sophisticated medical equipment. It is now one of the world’s largest providers of environmental technologies, which last year generated $38.3 billion (€28 billion) of its total revenue.
Siemens said last year its renewable energy unit, which is part of its environmental technologies division, had the strongest growth of any of its lines of business.