German firms had to stay competitive, Sigmar Gabriel said a day
before he outlines planned changes to a renewable energy law to
Chancellor Angela Merkel's cabinet, which sources say will involve
deep cuts in green energy support.
Export-oriented German companies have warned that a surge in power
costs, caused largely by the green power incentives, will make them
internationally uncompetitive and some have even threatened to move
"We have reached the limit of what we can ask of our economy,"
"The energy transformation has the potential to be an economic
success, but it can also cause a dramatic de-industrialization of
Social Democrat Gabriel, in his first major speech as economy
minister, also made clear he would defend German interests against
interference from the European Union which is investigating some
aspects of the renewable law.
His comments are more strongly pro-industry than either of his
predecessors, conservative Environment Minister Peter Altmaier or
Free Democrat Economy Minister Philipp Roesler who had joint
responsibility for energy policy.
But Germany faces a delicate balance if it is to keep the momentum
of a boom in renewable energy while also ensuring it is affordable
to consumers. It wants to raise the share of renewable power to
40-45 percent in 2025 from about 25 percent.
Merkel gave the switch to renewable an unexpected push when she
accelerated the exit from nuclear power after Japan's Fukushima
disaster in 2011. The policy is one of Germany's most significant
and is being watched round the world.
"We must make the energy shift an economic success ... No one around
the world will follow us, otherwise," Gabriel said.
Gabriel said the cost of the incentives under the renewable energy
law amounted to about 24 billion euros ($32.55 billion) a year.
According to a draft proposal seen by Reuters at the weekend,
Gabriel will recommend to the cabinet that Germany cuts the support
price paid for electricity from solar and wind power generators by
about a third by 2015.
[to top of second column]
Under that, the feed-in tariffs paid to renewable power generators
will be cut to an average across all technologies of 12 cents per
kiloWatthour (cent/kWh) by 2015 from 17 cents/kWh.
He vowed to fight for German interests against the EU if necessary.
The EU has opened an investigation over exemptions for
energy-intensive German companies from the charges imposed on power
consumers which fund green incentives.
"I am prepared to forcefully tell the European Commission ...that
Germany needs to remain competitive," he said.
Industry broadly welcomed to the leaked documents on Gabriel's
proposed incentive cuts.
Gabriel also said he opposed a capacity mechanism system that would
include all Germany's loss-making conventional power plants in
Germany, warning that costs would be too high. Some utilities have
pushed for such a plan which would see them get recompensed for
keeping power capacity available.
"We will certainly not put all conventional power plants into a
capacity market," Gabriel said, adding smaller solutions were more
likely and less costly.
He said he would start talks with the industry about a capacity
market solution in the coming months.
($1 = 0.7373 euros)
(Additional reporting by Vera Eckert and Christoph Steitz;
by Jane Merriman)
[© 2014 Thomson Reuters. All rights
Copyright 2014 Reuters. All rights reserved. This material may not be published,
broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.