EurActiv: German coalition snubs opposition in renewables reform

On Friday (27 June), the Bundestag is expected to pass reforms to German legislation supporting renewable energies. But after new direction came from Brussels, confusion gripped Berlin’s political scene earlier this week. EurActiv Germany reports.

The German Bundestag’s Committee on Economics and Energy approved a controversial amendment to Germany’s Renewable Energy Sources Act (EEG) on Tuesday (23 June) evening.

The amendment is attached to a draft law reforming the EEG and changing other implementing acts in energy industry law. After the cross-party coalition pushed the amendment through, the committee promptly approved the draft with a majority from the coalition factions.

While the Green Party (Bündnis 90/Die Grünen) faction voted against the draft, Germany’s Left Party (Die Linke) did not even participate in the vote. Left MPs walked out on the session shortly after it began.

Both opposition factions have been criticising the lateness of the amendment’s presentation, explaining that the last-minute changes have raised new fundamental questions over future support for renewables that have not been a topic in the parliamentary debate so far.

The amendment to the EEG is dependent on a stamp of approval from the European Commission, otherwise billion-dollar rebates for industry through the green energy surcharge can no longer be sustained.

On Sunday (22 June), State Secretary for Economic Affairs Rainer Baake brought new demands from the European Commission back with him after a meeting with EU Competition Commissioner Joaquín Almunia.

Monday (23 June) evening, party leaders from the Christian Democratic Union (CDU), its Bavarian sister the Christian Social Union (CSU) and the Social Democratic Party (SPD) met at Angela Merkel’s official residence.

And on Tuesday (24 June) morning, the Energy and Economic Affairs Committee met for deliberations over the changes demanded by the European Commission – but the meeting was interrupted. The Committee’s chairman Peter Ramsauer (CSU) spoke of a “somewhat confusing overall situation of engagement”, since the 204-page amendment proposal from the coalition factions could not be agreed on until Tuesday afternoon in faction meetings.

Green party representatives were up in arms, claiming that the rush was orchestrated in the interest of Vice Chancellor and Minister of Energy and Economic Affairs Sigmar Gabriel, who has been spearheading the reforms.

“To stay on schedule and save face for Gabriel, the coalition factions intend to rush the EEG through this evening in special meetings of the Bundestag committees”, said Katharina Dröge, head of the Committee for Economic Affairs and Energy, and Oliver Krischer, deputy faction chairman for the Green Party.

In the end, there was no more time for the factions to seek consultation over the more than 200-page document covering highly complex issues, they said. “That is a breach of parliamentary rights,” Dröge and Krischer said, “instead of giving the Bundestag time for thorough investigation, the centre-right alliance and the SPD are using their majority in an irresponsible way.”

The German government had hoped that the EU would provide information earlier on the requirements for green energy reforms, said vice chairman of the CDU/CSU’s faction Michael Fuchs, in a statement on Deutschlandfunk radio. When they came, he said the requirements were surprising. If Berlin had been informed earlier, the coalition “could have handled everything much more calmly”, Fuchs said.

The German government has been in talks with the European Commission for around a year over reforming its controversial EEG law. But until last week, there was never a word implying that the imported energy “could be a problem”, Fuchs criticised. Luckily, he said, it was possible to find a quick solution.

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Source: EurActiv, 2014

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