European Commission

Brussels attacks

Are we witnessing an attack on the national feed-in tariffs offered by individual EU countries, or is Brussels trying for a fairer system of distribution?

That seemed to be the question at the end of 2012, when EU competition commissioner Joaquín Almunia declared that a complaint against Germany’s Renewable Energy Sources Act (EEG) should be investigated. No information has been released on who made the complaint, and the text itself has not been published. But Almunia made it clear that Brussels would be taking a closer look at feed-in tariffs and Brussels attacks at surcharge exemptions for energy-intensive companies. MEP Claude Turmes (the Greens) later took the sting out of the commissioner’s statement: in his words, there was no longer any mention of questioning the Act as a whole but only of reviewing the privileges granted to industry (which concern the EEG surcharge, as well as carbon costs and grid fees).

Nevertheless, the renewables sector and many German politicians were alarmed by the news. Hannelore Kraft (SPD, head of the government of North Rhine-Westphalia) has made it clear that Germany cannot make the switch to renewables without the Act. But uncertainty prevails. Speaking at a meeting of EU energy ministers in Brussels in early December, EU energy commissioner Günther Oettinger again stressed that funding for green electricity would have to be abolished in the long run. Now the Commission is planning to draw up non-binding guidelines on renewables funding. So the question remains: is this an attack on Germany’s renewables act, or a way of achieving fairer distribution?