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ENERGY

Germany’s €9 ticket won’t continue in autumn, says minister

German Finance Minister Christian Lindner (FDP) has dampened hopes that energy relief measures like the fuel tax cut and €9 transport ticket will be extended past September.

€9 ticket Munich
A woman in Munich purchases a €9 ticket from a ticket machine. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Lennart Preiss

“We cannot compensate for increased prices for imported oil, the development of the dollar and shortages at refineries with state money in the long run,” Lindner told DPA.

The €9 ticket and fuel tax cut were both introduced for a three-month period from June to offer people relief on transport costs amid soaring energy prices.

However the Green Party, who are in the governing traffic-light coalition alongside the Social Democrats (SPD) and the Free Democrats (FDP), are believed to be in favour of prolonging the cheap public transport deal after September if it is proven to be a success. 

Speaking to DPA on Monday, Lindner rejected claims that either the cut on energy tax on petrol or the €9 ticket would remain in place in autumn.

The fixed-price ticket makes it impossible for operators to use price signals to indicate to customers where there is high or low demand, Lindner said. 

READ ALSO: €9 for 90: Everything you need to know about Germany’s cheap travel deal

“Steps towards free public transport are problematic because scarcities (e.g. in seating) cannot then be controlled by price.” 

Without differentiated prices for peak and off-peak times, capacity on trains and buses could be used “excessively”, he argued. 

Lindner’s comments come just days after Transport Minister Volker Wissing (FDP) ruled out longer term cuts to ticket prices.

“In the long run, it’s not possible,” he said on RTL ‘Frühstart’ programme. “Because the ticket costs over a billion euros a month.”

Fuel discount doubts

Lindner also defended his flagship energy relief measure – a cut in energy tax levied on fuel to offer relief to drivers.

In recent weeks there have been doubts about whether oil companies have passed their tax savings onto consumers, as both petrol and diesel have remained at around €2 per litre since the tax cut came into force in June. 

“The price level at the pump has dropped significantly in recent weeks,” Lindner said. “The development is better than abroad. For commuters and motorists, the relief is noticeable.” 

He added that the temporary tax cut had also ensured that the government doesn’t profit from excessive inflation.

Christian lindner

Finance Minister Christian Lindner (FDP) speaks at the Federation of German Industry’s “Day of Industry” event in Berlin. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Michael Kappeler

“We levy energy tax and value-added tax on petrol,” he said. “In view of the increase in global prices, the state’s revenues are set to rise this year. That is why we lowered the energy tax for three months to give back to car owners some of what they would otherwise pay to the state.”

Over the past week or so, there have been discussions about future measures to tackle rising consumer prices. 

Lindner said he thought that an increase in social security payments and an adjustment in income tax rates to counter inflation were both on the cards for this year. 

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Member comments

  1. Even though €9 ticket saved me about €40 a month – I’d be happy to see it go. The local train line is badly overcrowded thanks to it – it is usually busy in the summer, but these days it’s a choice between travelling at inconvenient off-peak hours or not being able to get on at all.

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ENERGY

Why sunny weather in Germany can switch off solar panels

The more the sun shines in the southern German town of Aurach, the more likely it is that Jens Husemann's solar panels will be disconnected from the grid -- an exasperating paradox at a time when Germany is navigating an energy supply crisis.

Why sunny weather in Germany can switch off solar panels

“It’s being switched off every day,” Husemann told AFP during a recent sunny spell, saying there had been more than 120 days of forced shutdowns so far this year.

Husemann, who runs an energy conversion business near Munich, also owns a sprawling solar power system on the flat roof of a transport company in Aurach, Bavaria.

The energy generated flows into power lines run by grid operator N-Ergie, which then distributes it on the network.

But in sunny weather, the power lines are becoming overloaded — leading the grid operator to cut off supply from the solar panels.

“It’s a betrayal of the population,” said Husemann, pointing to soaring electricity prices and a continued push to install more solar panels across Germany.

Europe’s biggest economy is eyeing an ambitious switch to renewables making up 80 percent of its electricity from 2030 in a bid to go carbon neutral.

N-ergie thermal power station

The thermal power station of energy supplier N-Ergie in Nuremberg, southern Germany. (Photo by Christof STACHE / AFP)

But Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has put a spanner in the works.

Moscow has cut gas supplies to Germany by 80 percent, in what is believed to be a bid to weaken the European powerhouse’s resolve in backing Ukraine.

READ ALSO: OPINION: How many massacres will it take for Germany to turn off Russian gas?

As a result, Berlin has been scrambling for alternative sources across the world to replace the shortfall.

This makes it all the more frustrating for Husemann, whose solar panels normally generate enough electricity for 50 households. With the repeated shutdowns, he suspects they will only supply half of their capacity by the end
of the year.

Grid bottlenecks

Grid operator N-Ergie, which is responsible for harvesting electricity from Husemann’s panels, admits the situation is less than ideal.

There were 257 days last year when it had to cut off supply from solar panels on parts of the grid.

“We are currently witnessing — and this is a good thing — an unprecedented boom in photovoltaic parks,” Rainer Kleedoerfer, head of N-Ergie’s development department, told AFP.

An employee of energy supplier N-ERGIE working at the company's network control centre in Nuremberg, southern Germany. 

An employee of energy supplier N-Ergie working at the company’s network control centre in Nuremberg, southern Germany.  (Photo by Christof STACHE / AFP)

But while it takes just a couple of years to commission a solar power plant, updating the necessary infrastructure takes between five and 10 years, he said.

“The number of interventions and the amount of curtailed energy have increased continuously in recent years” as a result, according to N-Ergie spokesman Michael Enderlein.

“The likelihood is that grid bottlenecks will actually increase in the coming years,” while resolving them will take several more years, Enderlein said.

According to Carsten Koenig, managing director of the German Solar Industry Association, the problem is not unique to solar power and also affects wind energy.

READ ALSO: Reader question – Should I modernise my heating system in Germany?

Solar bottlenecks tend to be regional and temporary, he said. “Occasionally, however, we hear that especially in rural areas in Bavaria, the shutdowns are more frequent.”

2.4 million households

Koenig agrees the problem is likely to get worse before it gets better.

“This will be especially true if political measures aimed at sufficiently expanding the power grid in Germany… drag on for too long,” he said.

Some 6.1 terawatt hours of electricity from renewables had to be curtailed in 2020, according to the most recent figures available.

With an average consumption of around 2,500 kilowatt hours per year in a two-person household, this would have been enough to power around 2.4 million households.

A spokesman for Germany’s Federal Network Agency said it did not share the belief that “it will not be possible to expand the network in line with demand in the coming years”.

Only some aspects of the expansion are seeing delays, the spokesman said — mainly due to slow approval procedures and a lack of specialist companies to do the work.

According to Husemann there have also been delays to the payments he is supposed to receive in return for the solar power he supplies — or cannot supply.

He said he is already owed around 35,000 euros ($35,600) for electricity produced so far this year that has never found its way into a socket.

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