Germany's largest utility to focus on renewables, leaving coal, oil and nuclear behind

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We've already seen one German utility company fundamentally rethink its business model in favor of renewables, now E.On, the company's largest provider of electricity, appears to be doing the same.

As reported over at The New York Times, E.On has announced it will gradually sell off all of its interests in conventional coal-, nuclear- and natural gas-fueled electricity generation. The impetus, said Johannes Teyssen, was the emergence of two distinct and radically different models for the energy business.

This is exciting news for clean energy advocates, who have long argued that utilities need to evolve if they are going to thrive in a low carbon economy. That said, we shouldn't get too carried away either. When E.On "sells off" its interests in conventional energy, by definition that means somebody else is buying. In fact, E.On plans to create a spin-off company, which it will maintain a minority share in for some time to come, and which will focus on the more traditional business of digging stuff out of the ground and turning it into electricity. (Pardon the over simplification.)

Given the signal that E.On's announcement sends about where it sees the energy markets going, however, the question I'd ask is this: Who is buying the conventional stake, and at what kind of prices?

Whale oil production facilities were probably not too hot a commodity in the late 1800s...

Oh, and if you want to help move this transition forward, here's how you can support clean energy without putting solar on your rooftop.

Germany's largest utility to focus on renewables, leaving coal, oil and nuclear behind
Things are changing fast in the energy industry. Really fast.

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