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ENERGY

Energy firms plan legal attack on nuke phaseout

Germany's leading energy companies are hiring top lawyers to mount a legal challenge against government plans to phase out nuclear power by 2022. The firms are hoping to secure massive compensation deals.

Energy firms plan legal attack on nuke phaseout
Photo: DPA

According to a report in news magazine Der Spiegel, the energy companies have hired top law firms to prepare their case, including Linklaters, Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer, Clifford Chance and Gleiss Lutz.

A document drawn up by Gleiss Lutz says the energy companies own the surplus electricity generated by their nuclear power stations, which is therefore protected by property law in the German constitution.

The lawyers say the government has failed to supply “stringent reasons” for their new phaseout plan, drawn up over the past three months, and that the energy companies are therefore entitled to compensation – amounting to several billion euros.

If a deal is not struck with the government, the Swedish firm Vattenfall is even threatening to take a case to international courts over their nuclear reactor Krümmel, which was shut down permanently in mid-March.

The companies are also planning to challenge the government’s tax on nuclear fuel.

Horst Seehofer, head of the Christian Social Union, dismissed the legal challenges as hopeless. “We are not going to make a deal. Our actions are legally flawless and politically independent,” he told the Financial Times Deutschland.

Chancellor Angela Merkel’s cabinet signed a package of bills this month that foresee Europe’s biggest economy being nuclear-free by 2022 – earlier than previously envisaged.

Germany’s nine reactors currently on line are due to be turned off between 2015 and 2022.

The seven oldest reactors were taken off-line after Japan’s massive March 11 earthquake and a tsunami knocked out cooling systems at the Fukushima Daiichi plant, causing reactors to overheat and radiation to be released.

The Local/bk

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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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