BERLIN (Reuters) - Germany’s cabinet on Monday agreed a package of draft law changes intended to send energy policy on a course away from nuclear and toward more renewable power.
The “energy transformation” came about in the wake of the Fukushima disaster, which overwhelmingly turned voter majorities against nuclear power, and raised calls to boost the role of green power and of energy savings and efficiency.
Monday’s moves entail a series of planned changes to cornerstones of individual legislation for the economy, environment, and finance departments, and propose changes to transport, construction and urban planning laws.
At the heart of the policy are detailed schedules for the phase-out of German nuclear power reactors by 2022.
Apart from nuclear, here are highlights from proposals to change other policy areas.
Many details are still controversial, even inside the governing parties. The entire framework is subject to approval by both houses of parliament before the summer break in July.
The government said although the schedule of when which nuclear plant must retire has been changed, nuclear production remains capped at the equivalent of an average plant life of 32 years which was agreed in a nuclear exit plan 10 years ago.
Transfers of remaining power production quotas from idled plants to those staying online are expressly possible, which the government says avoids loss of production for operators other than the scrapping of additional plant lives given last autumn.
E.ON denies there is no loss of production and has announced legal steps against the move.
The controversial Gorleben in Lower Saxony site will be further investigated for its aptitude to house nuclear waste permanently. An old impasse on whether other sites may also be suitable has been lifted so that in theory other states may house the storage site or sites eventually chosen.
A tax introduced last autumn and attached to the then longer life cycles of nuclear plants will stay in place. But income for the state will be curbed by one billion euros to 1.3 billion.
Interest on loans for energy efficiency measures in buildings will be cut and investment on insulation and spending on building revamps can be written off more easily.
The target to increase renewable power’s share in the electricity production mix to 35 percent by 2020 from 17 percent last year stays in place.
There will be more discussion and work on details of the subsidizing systems for solar, onshore and offshore wind, and biomass-to-power.
BREAKS FOR ENERGY-INTENSIVE INDUSTRY
Energy-intensive companies stand to expect breaks to compensate them for rising carbon avoidance costs and to counter the feared impact from the nuclear legislation on their power bills. But Germany may get into trouble with the EU over this.
Just like after reunification, central government wants more power to decide on necessary infrastructure projects although the states and citizens initiatives do not like the idea.
Berlin plans to pay some compensation to municipalities for work that impairs the quality of their residential property.
The government wants to speed the construction of 10,000 MW of new power generation capacity up to 2020 to offset the loss of nuclear, but this plan is outside Monday’s decisions.
Source: Environment ministry website
Reporting by Markus Wacket, Vera Eckert