Tuesday

18th Dec 2018

EU commissioner clashes with Germany on energy subsidies

  • Steel factories in Germany are likely to get preferential treatment (Photo: LarsAC)

Germany is on collision course with the European Commission over subsidies to energy-intensive industries which Brussels says run counter to EU goals on promoting greener sources by 2020.

In a rare move, competition commissioner Joaquin Almunia held a press conference in Berlin on Monday (17 February) after meeting German vice-chancellor and energy minister Sigmar Gabriel.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Support quality EU news

Get instant access to all articles — and 18 year's of archives. 30 days free trial.

... or join as a group

He said time was pressing, as the commission on 9 April will adopt new guidelines on how it will deal with state aid in the field of energy and environment.

The rules are set to enter into force on 1 July. They will outline the criteria on which competition cases will be opened, possibly leading to fines for governments if they are found in breach of EU state aid law.

The German government, for its part, is currently seeking to update a law on renewable energy which will spell out what subsidies solar and wind energy providers will get and which industries will be exempt from having to contribute to this support.

Exemption from contributing could be considered state aid and likely be scrutinised by Brussels.

The funding of the "Energiewende" - turning to greener energy sources - is a major task for the new coalition government in Germany.

Gabriel is under pressure from the industry not to increase its costs, as well as from consumers who see their energy bills go up.

"We have a lot of things to discuss with Germany, as Germany has the strongest industries in the EU and wants to promote renewables," Almunia said.

He added that, in principle, some industries can be exempt from having to contribute to the funding of renewable energies, but stressed that it should be "a minority of industrial sectors, not the whole economy."

Energy-intensive industries have applied for exemptions to the tune of €5.1 billion for this year, with Gabriel saying it will be hard to negotiate even €1 billion less.

External factors should also play a role in allowing these exemptions, Almunia said, for instance the fact that in the US energy prices have dropped, meaning that their equivalent industries have lower production costs.

Almunia mentioned steel, aluminium and zinc industries as examples of industries which could be allowed to have this preferential treatment under EU state aid rules.

"If member states ask us for a very long list of industry sectors to be exempt, the intensity of benefits will decrease. If the list is shorter, the intensity will increase," Almunia said.

EU leaders at a summit in March are expected to discuss how to fund renewable energies without hampering their industries' competitiveness, but still offering enough incentives for consumers and factories to turn "green."

The summit was initially scheduled for February, but was postponed due to lack of agreement among member states.

EU proposes 'affordable' climate targets

The EU commission has put out new greenhouse gas targets designed not to damage its economy, while upholding its status as a world leader on climate change.

Germany gets its way on EU car emissions

EU environment ministers have caved in to German pressure and agreed to reopen a deal on capping car emissions, to the disappointment of climate change campaigners.

COP24: Vanuatu in 'constant state of emergency' on climate

Ralph Regenvanu, foreign minister of the Pacific island Vanuatu, said at the COP24 talks in Poland it was disappointing the host country was promoting coal - but was happy with EU contributions to tackle climate change.

News in Brief

  1. 3,500 UK troops on standby for no-deal Brexit
  2. Brexit: Opposition disagrees over no confidence vote
  3. EU court confirms suspension of Polish judges law
  4. France to tax Google, Apple, Facebook, Amazon
  5. EU negotiators agree CO2 targets for cars
  6. May: Brexit vote will be week of 14 January
  7. Rome finds extra budget funds to fit EU demands
  8. Polish climate talks end in agreement on rulebook

Stakeholder

COP24 Nordic Pavilion: sharing climate solutions with the world

The Nordic Pavilion at COP24 is dedicated to dialogue – TalaNordic – about key themes regarding the transition to a low-carbon society, such as energy, transport, urban futures, the circular economy and green financing.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. International Partnership For Human RightsKyrgyz authorities have to immediately release human rights defender Azimjon Askarov
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersSeminar on disability and user involvement
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersInternational appetite for Nordic food policies
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersNew Nordic Innovation House in Hong Kong
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Region has chance to become world leader when it comes to start-ups
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersTheresa May: “We will not be turning our backs on the Nordic region”
  7. International Partnership for Human RightsOpen letter to Emmanuel Macron ahead of Uzbek president's visit
  8. International Partnership for Human RightsRaising key human rights concerns during visit of Turkmenistan's foreign minister
  9. Nordic Council of MinistersState of the Nordic Region presented in Brussels
  10. Nordic Council of MinistersThe vital bioeconomy. New issue of “Sustainable Growth the Nordic Way” out now
  11. Nordic Council of MinistersThe Nordic gender effect goes international
  12. Nordic Council of MinistersPaula Lehtomaki from Finland elected as the Council's first female Secretary General

Latest News

  1. Muscat's one-man rule poses challenge for EU
  2. Orban protests target state media in new front
  3. Brexit and the Queen Sacrifice
  4. EU gives Switzerland another six months for a deal
  5. Fiscal discipline rules in eurozone are devastating
  6. EU capitals see weekend of tear gas and water cannon
  7. Bulgarian 'EU passports' whistleblower wants justice
  8. No more Brexit talks, despite May's pleas

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us