Germany and EU face-off over renewables reform

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The EU and Germany are at loggerheads over the latter’s proposed changes to its 'energiewende' (EEG) reforms.

Germany is looking to apply consumption charges on renewable energy generators, with PV systems under 10kW not included. The surcharge is used to fund the country’s renewable energy policies.

However, heavy industry will be exempt from paying the additional consumption levy, with the government citing concerns that it would make German industry less competitive.

EU competition commissioner Joaquín Almunia is concerned that consumers with solar panels will pay while large corporations will not. He is also worried that foreign electricity suppliers are not receiving equal treatment.

“If consumers have to pay a surcharge on their consumption of both domestic and imported electricity but revenue from the surcharge is used to only finance domestic electricity producers, there is a risk that imported electricity is disadvantaged and made comparatively more expensive,” he told The Financial Times.

Chancellor Angela Merkel warned that she would resist any attempts at interference from the commissioner.

At the time of writing, the EEG reform was in the middle of a reading at the Bundestag with a vote to follow.

Energy and economy minister, and vice-chancellor Sigmar Gabriel was confident ahead of the session.

“I'm sure we will reach an agreement in the end but we in Germany cannot pay for foreign electricity, if we don't have the same possibilities the other way round in other countries in Europe. Secondly we cannot burden existing plants with 100% of the renewable energy surcharge,” he told reporters.

In a nod to the imminent end of term for European Commissioners he added: “I am sure the new commissioner who succeeds Mr Almunia will understand.”

In February Gabriel issued a warning to the EU if it interfered in the EEG surcharge’s exemptions.

“It must be understood that whoever does not handle issues regarding German industry and its burdens with particular care, is playing with fire – not only in Germany but also in the EU,” he said.

There was infighting at the Bundestag earlier in the week after a late round of amendments was presented. The Greens voted against the changes while MPs from Left Party walked out of the session in protest.

The EEG reform package was widely expected to be passed despite wanrings that it could mean the country missed its renewable energy targets.

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