* Dismisses report that the economy minister is opposed
* Calls on opposition Social Democrats to co-operate
* Pledges not to waste time for electioneering
By Vera Eckert
ESSEN, Germany, Feb 4 German Environment
Minister Peter Altmaier on Monday reaffirmed his intention to
limit power price rises for consumers ahead of September general
elections and pledged to look for multi-party backing for his
latest reform plan.
"Power prices need to be kept at a level you can calculate
and rely on," he said at a conference in Essen. "The way the
system works now cannot continue and politicians have to meet
their responsibilities to change it."
The remarks came after heated weekend statements in reaction
to his plan, published a week ago.
Economy Minister Philipp Roesler, of the free market
liberals, was quoted criticising the proposals as "illusory
solutions" that were doomed to failure.
Altmaier brushed aside the report, saying he had not seen
it. He said he was certain of support by the liberals for work
on an overhaul of the green surcharges system.
Altmaier wants to cap rises in subsidies to renewable power
producers, which have caused an installation boom and burden
consumers, and suspend feed-in tariffs to new installations.
He also wants owners of existing renewable installations to
contribute to an "energy solidarity tax" and to end exemptions
for some energy intensive firms from a surcharge for renewables
which is imposed on households.
Opposition parties could block his plan - which is meant to
precede a wider energy reform - should Chancellor Angela Merkel
win another term. This is because Merkel's coalition government,
weakened by state elections, no longer holds a majority in the
Bundesrat upper house.
But Altmaier said he would not just lobby environment
ministers of Germany's 16 states, from all parties, but Merkel
would also try and bring state premiers on board at a March 21
meeting, where the power prices debate would be on the agenda.
He welcomed a statement by the leader of the opposition
Social Democrats, Sigmar Gabriel, who had agreed wholesale
reform of the green subsidy law was necessary even if he had
described Altmaier's ideas as the wrong course.
Altmaier said this was a "cooperation proposal."
He said, "The discussion has become more objective...nobody
wants to be responsible for double-digit price rises again in
October," he said.
Surcharges under the renewable energy law (EEG) - a big
component of the power price borne by consumers - are calculated
once a year and hiked by 40 percent last October which caused an
outcry by consumers.
The surcharges are imposed to fund the switch to renewables
under Merkel's energy shift strategy away from fossil fuels.
If the system continued unchanged, this autumn another 4
billion euros or even 6 billion ($5.5-8.2 billion) could be
missing in the EEG budget, causing more price hikes, Altmaier
($1 = 0.7301 euros)
(Reporting by Vera Eckert, editing by William Hardy)