July 13, 2014

German Power Sector Calls For End to Renewable Energy Bill Row

* Utilities group criticise row over renewable reform
* Says politicians must end standoff for reform to proceed
* Wants answers why EU questioned done deal, Berlin "failed"

German energy industry group BDEW on Wednesday criticised a dispute between Berlin and the European Commission over changes to Germany's renewable energy law, demanding both parties settle their differences so that further reform can be tackled.

Following last-minute objections from the Commission, Germany offered to modify parts of its reform on Tuesday in a bid to diffuse the row over incentives for green energy producers to secure rebates for industry.
BDEW director Hildegard Mueller described the course of events as unprecedented and disturbing for the affected utility sector. It wanted clarity on who was to blame.

"Were important signals from Brussels ignored by our government?," she said at the opening of the annual conference held by BDEW, an association that groups 1,800 firms involved in the provision of power, gas, heat and water.

"Or did some in the EU Commision play havoc with the foundations of a reliable industry policy in Germany in an unacceptable fashion ... this ... must not happen again in the foreseeable future."

To protect what had appeared to have been a done deal, Berlin proposed that industrial companies producing their own power would pay a higher surcharge than previously planned.

But it indicated it would resist the Commission's demands to exempt electricity imported from neighbouring states from the surcharge, as it works towards a deadline for the Bundestag (lower house) to pass the reform bill on Friday.

The Bundestag must vote on the law this week to ensure industry has time to apply for next year's surcharge exemptions, before the European Parliament goes into its summer recess.

Chancellor Angela Merkel said on Wednesday she would push back decisively against the Commission if it raised further objections to German green power subsidies.

Mueller said that once the EU and Berlin had settled heir differences behind them, there was a raft of pressing energy issues that had been left unresolved by politicians so far.

These included a scheme to fund otherwise unprofitable gas- and coal-fired plants to secure future electricity supplies, integrating green power into the market, the expansion of the transmission grid and more energy efficiency.

Economy Minister Sigmar Gabriel is due to address the conference later on Wednesday.

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