BERLIN, Jan 23 (Reuters) - 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 August.
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.