29 Mar 2019, 13:56
Benjamin Wehrmann

Germany’s renewables support system does not violate state aid rules - EU court

Clean Energy Wire

The European Court of Justice (ECJ) has ruled that Germany's system of financing its renewables build-up through a surcharge on power bills does not violate EU state aid regulations. The ECJ's decision means that exemptions for energy-intensive industries from paying a country-wide consumer surcharge to fund renewable energy expansion do not violate EU antitrust rules. The ECJ annulled a European Commission finding that the exemptions were tantamount to state aid, aimed at shielding industry from cost pressures related to its 2012 Renewables Act (EEG). The EEG introduced a mark-up on consumer power bills to finance guaranteed remuneration for operators of renewable energy installations.  The idea was to incentivise operators to invest in renewables. According to the ECJ, the EU Commission failed to provide sufficient evidence that the advantages granted to heavy industry to preserve their competitiveness, for example to chemical companies or steel producers, involved state resources. The Commission in 2014 had ordered Germany to make the companies pay for part of the rebates and was backed by another EU court in 2016.
German utility lobby group BDEW said the new ruling had finally provided legal certainty. “It makes clear that the support of renewable energy sources and the preservation of energy-intensive industries are not mutually exclusive,” said BDEW head Stefan Kapferer, warning that the government should not use the ruling to try to establish more exemptions. Chemical industry association VCI said the ruling now allowed the German government to become more “flexible” in the design of exemptions. Renewable energy association BEE said the ruling showed the EU’s state aid rules were not fully applicable to the EEG. This could have implications for several other amendments to the EEG that the EU had called for, for example regarding the rules for renewables auctions or the suspension of guaranteed remuneration for renewables at negative power prices.

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