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ENERGY

Merkel flags 15 years for nuclear extension

German Chancellor Angela Merkel said on Sunday night that the lifespan of the nation's nuclear power plants should be extended by 10 to 15 years beyond the planned phase-out starting in 2021.

Merkel flags 15 years for nuclear extension
Photo: DPA

An extension of 10 to 15 years was “technically reasonable,” the chancellor said in an interview with TV channel ARD.

Merkel’s conclusions were based on a report by experts, widely quoted by German media on Saturday, which recommended an extension of 12 to 20 years to allow “the best outcomes for climate protection and the economy”.

Centre-left Social Democratic (SPD) leader Sigmar Gabriel threatened the government with a constitutional challenge to the extension.

If the upper house, or Bundesrat, was bypassed on the issue – a tactic Merkel may need to resort to – “then we will present before the Constitutional Court,” he told broadcaster Bayerischer Rundfunk on Monday morning.

The pro-business Free Democrats general secretary Christian Lindner defended the planned extension and said he was confident his party – the junior members of the ruling coalition – would reach an agreement with the conservative CDU.

“Yes, there is a common position here,” he told broadcaster ARD.

He added the discussion was clearly moving in the direction of an extension for a “medium period” of between 10 and 20 years, though the precise period would be the subject of further debate.

The phasing out of 17 German nuclear power plants starting in 2021 had been planned by Merkel’s predecessor Gerhard Schröder.

Merkel’s government, however, pushed back the programme and had not fixed a new timetable for the phase-out.

In a statement on Friday, Merkel said renewable energies should supply half of all energy needs by 2050 and that nuclear and coal power would continue until supplies could be met entirely by clean energy.

A poll published on Friday found that 56 percent of Germans are against keeping nuclear power plants beyond 2021.

The Greens have called for an anti-nuclear demonstration to take place on Wednesday in Berlin.

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ENERGY

German government announces fresh relief package for high energy costs

With Russia's invasion in Ukraine exacerbating high energy and petrol prices, Germany is set to introduce a second relief package to limit the impact on consumers.

German government announces fresh relief package for high energy costs

The additional package of measures was announced by Economy and Climate Protection Minister Robert Habeck (Greens) on Sunday.

Speaking to DPA, Habeck said the wave of price increases throughout the energy sector were becoming increasingly difficult for households to bear.

“Extremely high heating costs, extremely high electricity prices, and extremely high fuel prices are putting a strain on households, and the lower the income, the more so,” he said. “The German government will therefore launch another relief package.”

The costs of heating and electricity have hit record highs in the past few months due to post-pandemic supply issues. 

This dramatic rise in prices has already prompted the government to introduce a range of measures to ease the burden on households, including abolishing the Renewable Energy Act (EEG) levy earlier than planned, offering grants to low-income households and increasing the commuter allowance. 

READ ALSO: EXPLAINED: What Germany’s relief package against rising prices means for you

But since Russia invaded neighbouring Ukraine on February 24th, the attack has been driving up energy prices further, Habeck explained.

He added that fears of supply shortages and speculation on the market were currently making the situation worse. 

How will the package work?

When defining the new relief measures, the Economics Ministry will use three criteria, Habeck revealed. 

Firstly, the measures must span all areas of the energy market, including heating costs, electricity and mobility. 

Heating is the area where households are under the most pressure. The ministry estimates that the gas bill for an average family in an unrenovated one-family house will rise by about €2,000 this year. 

Secondly, the package should include measures to help save energy, such as reducing car emissions or replacing gas heating systems.

Thirdly, market-based incentives should be used to ensure that people who use less energy also have lower costs. 

“The government will now put together the entire package quickly and constructively in a working process,” said Habeck.

Fuel subsidy

The three-point plan outlined by the Green Party politician are not the only relief proposals being considered by the government.

According to reports in German daily Bild, Finance Minister Christian Lindner (FPD) is allegedly considering introducing a state fuel subsidy for car drivers.

The amount of the subsidy – which hasn’t yet been defined – would be deducted from a driver’s bill when paying at the petrol station. 

The operator of the petrol station would then have to submit the receipts to the tax authorities later in order to claim the money back. 

Since the start of the war in Ukraine, fuel prices have risen dramatically in Germany: diesel has gone up by around 66 cents per litre, while a litre of E10 has gone up by around 45 cents.

READ ALSO: EXPLAINED: The everyday products getting more expensive in Germany

As well as support for consumers, the government is currently working on a credit assistance programme to assist German companies that have been hit hard by the EU sanctions against Russia.

As reported by Bild on Saturday, bridging aid is also being discussed for companies that can no longer manage the sharp rise in raw material prices.

In addition, an extension of the shorter working hours (Kurzarbeit) scheme beyond June 30th is allegedly being examined, as well as a further increase in the commuter allowance.

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