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05 Mar 2021, 13:12
Sören Amelang

Germany agrees to pay energy companies over 2 billion euros in nuclear exit compensation

Clean Energy Wire

The German government has agreed to pay nuclear power station operators 2.4 billion euros in compensation for losses suffered during the country's early nuclear shutdown in the wake of the Fukushima disaster, ending a long legal battle. "The government has reached an agreement with EnBW, E.ON/PreussenElektra, RWE and Vattenfall," Germany's environment, finance and economy ministries said in a joint statement.

"The agreement has no consequences for the nuclear phase-out. It remains the case that the last German nuclear power plant will be taken off the grid by the end of 2022 at the latest," the statement said. The payments will cover both the costs of unproduced electricity and investments the companies had made before the 2011 phase-out decision. Vattenfall will receive 1.425 billion euros, RWE 880 million euros, EnBW 80 million euros, and E.ON/PreussenElektra 42.5 million euros. In return, the companies will withdraw all pending legal proceedings. In a first reaction, environmental NGO Friends of the Earth Germany (BUND) welcomed the agreement, but said the compensation was much too high. Jochen Flasbarth, state secretary in the environment ministry said in a written statement: "The agreement was reached at a price that is significantly lower than the companies' expectations, and also significantly lower than the sum that was on the table before the arbitration court in Washington. In my view, this is due to the fact that the entire German energy industry is now completely oriented towards renewables."

Just months before the 2011 Fukushima disaster, chancellor Angela Merkel's government had agreed to extend nuclear plants' lifetimes. But following the meltdown in Japan, it made a u-turn and decided to decommission some nuclear power plants immediately and the rest under an accelerated schedule up to 2022. The plan had broad public support in Germany, which has a very strong anti-nuclear movement. But the affected utilities cried foul and started legal actions immediately. Germany's constitutional court ruled in 2016 that the nuclear phase-out was legal, but called for compensations to the operators.

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