BERLIN Jan 23 Germany must not miss chances to
review elements of its costly renewable energy subsidy system as
it gears up for national elections in late September,
Environment Minister Peter Altmaier said.
Rising energy bills in Europe's biggest economy have become
a major concern for Chancellor Angela Merkel's centre-right
government which has decided to pull out of nuclear energy and
set ambitious targets for renewables to replace fossil fuels.
Thanks in part to a law - called EEG - that guarantees the
sale of renewables at above-market rates, Germany has seen a
rapid expansion in solar panels and wind turbines but the system
has become oversubsidised and a burden for consumers.
"There cannot be a complete overhaul of the EEG law but some
new rules (are possible), even before the election," Altmaier
said at the annual Handelsblatt energy conference.
"We have at least six months for parliamentary consultations
left," he added. Parliament breaks for the summer in July and
Altmaier, of Merkel's conservatives, has to work with
Economy Minister Philipp Roesler in appeasing both green power
producers, who benefit from the prices, and industrial and
private consumers, who suffer rising power bills.
Altmaier left open which elements he meant. But he said a
good date to discuss changes would be a regular energy meeting
between Merkel and the prime ministers of Germany's 16 states at
the end of March.
Energy network regulator Jochen Homann - a public sector
official and former deputy Economy Minister, who oversees
transmission networks costs and stability - at the same event
named two elements that bothered him most.
These were compensation for renewable power paid at times of
no demand, and what Homann called exaggerated payments to
decentralised power producers.
These were originally paid on the basis that they help avoid
investment in transmission grids, but since then it has become
apparent billions of euros will be needed to build new power
lines to transport renewables from far-away sites to cities.
Roesler belongs to the pro-business liberals, (FDP) junior
coalition partners, who want fast and more comprehensive EEG
reform. Germany has the second-highest power prices in Europe.