22 Sep 2022, 13:50
Julian Wettengel

Uniper nationalisation makes Germany owner of coal and nuclear plants abroad

Süddeutsche Zeitung / FAZ / Tagesspiegel

Germany’s government is facing several challenges linked to its plans to nationalise Europe’s largest buyer of Russian gas, Uniper. The company operates in more than 40 countries and, aside from its energy trading business, runs coal and gas power plants in Russia and also owns stakes in nuclear power plants in Sweden, writes Süddeutsche Zeitung. Germany itself is in the final stages of exiting nuclear power production and on track to ending its dependence on fossil fuel imports from Russia. “It is quite obvious that a country like Germany, which is both phasing out nuclear and pushing for a decarbonised energy supply, cannot operate nuclear and coal-fired power plants elsewhere,” Green Party MP and former environment minister Jürgen Trittin told Tagesspiegel. “The stakes in Russia and in coal and nuclear power plants must be divested as soon as reasonably possible,” he said.

The government also said it would stick to plans of imposing a controversial levy on gas customers to provide additional funds to gas importers struggling with skyrocketing market prices. While economy minister Robert Habeck said it was yet unclear whether the funds raised through the levy could be legally transferred to a state-owned company, the finance ministry said “there are no legal concerns”, writes Tagesspiegel Background. Opposition MP Andreas Jung during a parliamentary debate criticised that the levy was "completely mismanaged" from the onset and "totally screwed up", writes Tagesspiegel.

Gas importer Uniper will be put under control of the German state after the company accrued crushing losses over the past months due to skyrocketing gas prices resulting from Russia’s war on Ukraine. The nationalisation is the right decision because the government must ensure energy supply as well as “protect citizens and companies from financial ruin”, writes Johannes Pennekamp in an opinion in Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung. However, the government should have a plan to privatise the company again once the crisis is over. “The state has not shown any foresight in energy policy. It should refrain from entrepreneurial tasks beyond the crisis.”

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