Germany ups new green energy surcharge on industry to meet EU rules

BERLIN Tue Jun 24, 2014 9:55am EDT

European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso speaks during a news conference in Tbilisi June 12, 2014. REUTERS/David Mdzinarishvili

European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso speaks during a news conference in Tbilisi June 12, 2014.

Credit: Reuters/David Mdzinarishvili

BERLIN (Reuters) - Germany on Tuesday offered to change a planned reform of its renewable energy policy, trying to end a standoff with the European Commission over green power subsidies and to meet a deadline needed to secure rebates for German industry.

In an amended draft law seen by Reuters, the government proposed that German industrial companies producing their own electricity in new renewable energy or combined heat-power plants would pay a higher surcharge than previously planned.

Germany presented the changes after the Commission raised new sticking points on Monday, undoing what had appeared to be an agreed deal.

But Berlin indicated it would resist EU demands to exempt imported electricity from an energy surcharge.

Christian Democrat deputy parliamentary floor leader Michael Fuchs said Chancellor Angela Merkel would have to intervene with Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso on the issue.

"Our happiness with the European Commission's behavior in the last few days has been limited," said Social Democrat deputy parliamentary floor leader Hubertus Heil.

Germany had until Tuesday to bring its green energy reforms into line with the bloc's competition laws, including requirements to make heavy industry pay a surcharge for power they produce at their own plants.

The Bundestag is due to vote on the law on Friday after parliamentary groups approve it later on Tuesday. German industry cannot apply for billions of euros of exemptions from the green energy surcharge if Berlin misses the deadline.

So far energy-intensive industries have been exempt from the surcharge, or have enjoyed large discounts, something they say they need to remain competitive.

According to the new draft, industry producing its own electricity in new renewable or combined heat-power plants will pay 30 percent of the current 6.24 cents per kilowatt hour surcharge in 2015, rising to 35 percent in 2016 and 40 percent from 2016.

Existing plants and small plants such as solar panels on roofs would remain exempt from the surcharge, while other new plants would pay the full surcharge. The plan until now had been for industry to pay 15 percent of the surcharge.

"It would be a massive own goal in terms of industrial policy if politicians were to put a surcharge on own power production used by many sectors for decades," German industry lobby BDI chief Markus Kerber said in a statement.

"That's the opposite of protecting confidence. German industry needs absolute clarity and long-term security to plan."

The EU said on Tuesday it had not yet taken a position on the reworked draft law but had no problem in general with exempting households from paying the surcharge.

Subsidized renewable energy, led by wind and solar power, have sparked a political debate in Germany over high prices for consumers, who pay mandatory charges for green energy.

(Additional reporting by Tom Koerkemeier in Brussels; Writing by Annika Breidthardt, editing by David Evans)

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