BERLIN, April 20 (Reuters) - German government talks on introducing a brake on rising energy bills have collapsed and the federal chancellery has given up on attempts to get an agreement with states, a government spokeswoman said on Saturday.
“Discussions of the heads of state chancelleries and the federal government have shown it’s no longer possible to reach a consensus before the federal election,” the spokeswoman said.
A surge in prices has accompanied a boom in renewable energy in Germany and rising prices have turned into a major political issue ahead of September’s election.
The steep rises have been caused in part by subsidies for renewables, with the cost those of subsidies being passed on to households. Waivers for power-intensive companies have also been blamed for the sharp rise in the surcharge in recent years.
A meeting between the federal chancellery and the heads of some state chancelleries which was due to happen next week had previously been cancelled, government sources said.
The curb on energy prices is aimed at limiting the renewable surcharge to 5.3 cents per kilowatt hour. That rose in 2013 from 3.6 cents.
Environment Minister Peter Altmaier has said the charge will rise again at the turn of the year unless countermeasures are taken.
In late March Altmaier failed to achieve the necessary agreement between the government and states after several rounds of discussions.
But back then Chancellor Angela Merkel said the federal chancellery would nonetheless continue with discussions until May, though she was sceptical about any agreement being reached.
The government needed support from the opposition Social Democrats (SPD) and Greens to pass the measures through the opposition-controlled Bundesrat upper house of parliament.
There were disagreements between the federal states and between parties, with the SPD calling for reductions in electricity tax, which Merkel rejected.
SPD and Greens were against big cuts to renewable energy subsidies but did not agree on how to pass the burden onto industry.
Power-intensive companies are largely exempted from the charge so that they can remain competitive internationally.
The SPD blamed the government for the failure of the talks.
“The real problem is that the government itself does not agree on this,” senior SPD lawmaker Ulrich Kelber told Reuters.
Juergen Trittin, parliamentary leader for the Greens, said the failure to get an energy price break was good news, saying the announcement of the plans had unnerved the renewable energy sector and jeopardised billions of euros worth of investments. (Reporting by Markus Wacket; Writing by Michelle Martin; Editing by Toby Chopra)