Hope on retroactive FIT-cut as German talks stall

Talks between German environment minister Peter Altmaier and his counterparts from the country’s states over government plans for cuts to support for renewables failed today – although Recharge understands one key element of the proposals could be off the table.

While no overall deal was reached, a government official told Recharge that a proposal for an additional 1.5%-cut in FITs to already-producing plants will probably not go ahead.

Renewables groups and opposition politicians had rallied strongly against such retroactive cuts to support.

Altmaier and the state environment ministers also agreed that exemptions to heavy industries from paying the surcharge that funds renewables support should be reduced, but they can’t agree by how much, the official said.

The meeting came ahead of a gathering on Thursday between German Chancellor Angela Merkel and state premiers that is supposed to seal a consensus over the proposals.

Merkel needs the support of German states, because the Social Democrat-Greens-led opposition to her government at the federal level currently holds a majority in the Bundesrat, Germany’s upper chamber representing states, which could be used to block the plan.

Despite the limited progress, there was no overall agreement.

“Altmaier continues to insist on measures to slow down renewable energies, but he wasn’t able to get through with that,” Green Party MP and energy expert Hans-Josef Fell said in a statement. “With the Greens, there won’t be any brake of the energy turnaround that Altmaier and (economics minister) Rösler obviously want.”

Today's talks centred on a joint proposal that Altmaier and Rösler made in February. It contains a series of measures designed to freeze the surcharge German consumers have to pay on their electricity bills that finances feed-in tariffs (FITs).

Greenpeace activists today protested against the proposals in front of the environment ministry with banners such as “only once the last wind turbine has been stopped, the last solar company is bust, and no one invests in renewables anymore, will you realise that with Altmaier electricity prices will rise anyway.”

Like others opposed to the plan, Greenpeace wants fewer exemptions from the renewables surcharge for large industries, instead of having households bear most of the cost of the expansion of renewables.

A group of five northern German states earlier this month published a discussion paper in which they complained Germany’s energy transition away from nuclear is in danger, because investors are unsettled by the current debate about cuts in support levels.