RWE boss warns of industrial decline from nuclear phaseout

A quick phaseout of nuclear power could lead to blackouts and threaten Germany's key industrial sector, the head of energy giant RWE said on Friday.

RWE boss warns of industrial decline from nuclear phaseout
Photo: DPA

Jürgen Großmann, a vocal critic of Chancellor Angela Merkel’s decision to end Germany’s reliance on nuclear energy by 2022, told the daily Süddeutsche Zeitung the country was jeopardizing its economic foundation.

“Politicians would do well to review their actions, and consequences for the price of electricity,” he told the paper. “Consumers will pay more and many companies will think twice about whether they are in good hands in Germany.”

Nuclear energy provided nearly a quarter of Germany’s power before a temporary moratorium was put in place this spring following the Japanese atomic disaster in Fukushima.

Much of it that power is produced by RWE, which operates four nuclear plants around the county.

Some scientists have argued Germany can transition to other forms of power relatively smoothly without electricity shortages and price increases.

But Großmann, who has been a leading critic of the centre-right government’s reversal on nuclear energy, said power cuts were possible due to the country’s overloaded electricity grid, which will be under more pressure under Merkel’s plans.

“The danger is real,” he told the newspaper. “Blackouts are possible if stability decreases in the network.”

He said that spiking energy prices could lead to a “de-industrialization” of Germany as businesses head to cheaper countries.

If government policies remain the same, “we will soon have to give up entire industries,” he said. “Companies such as BASF and ThyssenKrupp will no longer be here.”

Großmann also argued that political pressure was making it difficult for energy firms to do business in Germany, driving down RWE’s stock prices and increasing the likelihood of a hostile takeover.

He also warned that RWE will try to invest abroad in the future.

“Growth is for us now is elsewhere,” Großmann said.

The Local/mdm

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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.