German relief at ECJ decision

The European Court of Justice ruling today that a Finnish wind producer selling power to Sweden doesn't have the right to receive Swedish renewables support has implications across the EU – but was particularly welcomed in Germany, which has seen its renewables support scheme under scrutiny by the European Commission. 

"The clarification of the ECJ underlines that EU states can set up their own rules in energy policy," said Hermann Albers, the president of the German wind energy federation BWE, adding that the ruling reaffirms Germany's view that its Renewable Energies Act (EEG) doesn't consist of illegal subsidies.

"The torpedoing of the German EEG by adversaries of the Energiewende now is off the table."

After rumbling against the EEG for months because it favours other support mechanisms than the feed-in tariffs (FITs) granted as part of it, the European Commission last week suddenly raised a new reservation about the German support scheme.

The commission said the payment of Germany's renewables surcharge (EEG surcharge) could be considered something equivalent to a customs duty, and therefore renewable energy imported into Germany should be exempt from payment of the surcharge.

The surcharge is slapped on electricity prices to finance the expansion of renewable energy in Germany.

Although not exactly the same issue, the Finnish-Swedish dispute also touched upon trans-border flows of renewable energy and how these affect national support schemes.

In that light, German energy minister Sigmar Gabriel welcomed the ECJ ruling, saying it confirms that national support schemes don't need to be opened up to electricity coming from abroad.

"The ruling creates legal security for the necessary national support systems," Gabriel said.

"That confirms the position of the (German) federal government in the discussions with the EU commission on the approval of the new EEG," he said, adding that he assumes that nothing stands in the way any longer for an OK by EU competition authorities for the reformed EEG.

Germany's parliament last week had approved a reform of the EEG that foresees cuts in the support of RE and caps to their expansion, but in great part leaves the current FIT system intact.