Unfair Competition? EU Takes on German Green Energy Law
The European Commission plans to launch a probe this Wednesday into Germany's renewable energy law. Brussels says it breaches EU competition law because it exempts many companies from charges levied to fund green subsidies.
The European Commission plans to open proceedings on Wednesday against Germany's renewable energy law on the grounds that it breaches EU competition regulations.
Under the law, German electricity users pay a charge that goes towards funding renewable energy generation. Competition Commissioner Joaquin Almunia believes that exemptions granted to some energy-intensive German companies from those charges run counter to EU law.
The Commission plans to launch proceedings aimed not only at banning such exemptions in the future, but also requiring companies to repay the charges they were exempted from in the past.
Energy Commissioner Günther Oettinger even called the entire renewable energy law into question in remarks to a conference hosted by German energy company E.on last week.
Too Many Exemptions?
Oettinger said many provisions in the law appeared to be in breach of EU single market rules and competition law. For example, he said, it wasn't acceptable that Germay subsidizes its own wind power but makes no subsidies available to operators from Denmark and Norway that deliver windpower to Germany.
Some 4,500 companies have so far applied to be exempted from the renewable energy charge. The German Economy Ministry, responding to a written question from the opposition Greens, confirmed that even golf clubs have largely been freed from paying the charge.
On Sunday, Chancellor Angela Merkel said Brussels had raised questions about the law and she reiterated her intention to amend it if she wins a third term in the September 22 election. The law was introduced over a decade ago, before Merkel came into office.
The charges have financed large incentives to renewable energy providers, triggering a boom in green power production. But they have also driven up the cost of electricity for users who have to pay the charge. "We urgently need an amendment to the renewable energy law," Merkel told ARD television.