The German government is suing the European Commission at the court of the European Union over an investigation to examine whether exemptions to the payment of the renewable energy surcharge (EEG surcharge) by many German industries are compatible with EU state aid rules.
The office of European competition commissioner Joaquín
Almunia – to the chagrin of German energy minister Sigmar Gabriel – opened the probe in December on two grounds, the more important being the argument that the
reduction in the payment of the EEG surcharge for energy-intensive companies
appears to be financed from a state resource.
Germany has always rejected that accusation on the grounds
that the EEG surcharge is not paid by the state, but by consumers on top of
their power bills in order to finance the build-up of renewable energy.
the EEG, renewable installations in Germany get a feed-in tariff (FIT), usually
for 20 years.
The government in Berlin as part of a revision of the
renewable energy act (EEG) plans to reduce the exemptions to the payment of the
surcharge somewhat, but Gabriel recently stressed that the reduction won’t be
to the order of several billion euros as some had hoped.
The exemptions to the payment of the EEG surcharge are not
only criticised by the EC, but also by the opposition Green party and
renewables groups, as they make the payment of the surcharge more expensive for
the remainder of power consumers – notably households and small and
A rapid rise of the EEG surcharge in recent years has led
to an intense debate about the cost of Germany’s Energiewende – its turnaround
from nuclear to renewables. Green groups argue that the higher cost of the
surcharge due to the exemptions is distorting the cost of the renewables
expansion and thus making the Energiewende unpopular.
Gabriel has been fighting off calls for large reductions of
the exemption, arguing that this would endanger German industries. He also told
the EC that if it were to declare the exemptions state aid, thousands of
industrial jobs would be lost in Germany, which could potentially derail the
euro zone’s fragile recovery.
Gabriel is slated to meet Almunía next week in Brussels.