It is point 1 in the thirteen-page paper in which the traffic light coalition members summarized their agreement on new relief on Sunday. It is therefore declared by the SPD, Greens and FDP to be particularly important. “Measures on the energy market” is the title of the longer passage, which has probably caused some debate in the coalition committee since Saturday afternoon.
Because it is about intervening in the electricity market – with an effect not least on the providers of renewable energies. What is now to be introduced as the “reverse EEG surcharge” is nothing more than skimming off high profits from electricity suppliers who do not produce with gas. Practically a kind of excess profit tax – but because the FDP strictly rejected such a step, the step is now being implemented by intervening in the market organization for electricity providers – money does not end up with the state, but is redistributed between producers and customers.
Finance Minister Christian Lindner (FDP) described the market organization for electricity as “paradoxical” on Sunday. In the European electricity market, it is always the most expensive form of electricity generation that determines the price – currently natural gas. Providers of wind and solar energy, coal converters or nuclear power plant operators make a lot of money from this, even though their production costs do not change at all or only marginally. This is how they make huge profits.
These “accidental gains” are now to be limited by setting a “revenue cap” for the producers of cheaper electricity. The difference to the higher wholesale price (which is determined by the price of gas) is then to be distributed across the grid operators in order to cap the electricity costs of consumers. The traffic light is planning an “electricity price brake for basic consumption”. A certain amount of electricity should be credited to private households and small and medium-sized companies “at a discounted price”, as the traffic light paper states. “Households are noticeably relieved financially and at the same time there is an incentive to save energy.”
Lindner did not want to name a specific amount on Sunday, but a “double-digit billion amount” would be redistributed in this way. “Using this money for a solidarity contribution to the common good and putting it into lowering electricity prices and curbing grid fees is exactly the right thing,” said Economics Minister Robert Habeck (Greens). In order not to burden the citizens any further, the increase in the CO2 tax, which is actually due for the turn of the year, will be postponed.
In addition, the price of electricity is to be dampened by using the sums skimmed off to reduce the threat of an increase in the so-called network charges for security measures from October. The established payment methods for the EEG surcharge are to be used for processing, which has been abolished for private individuals since July 1 – but not for companies. However, the 17 billion euros that have accumulated in the EEG surcharge account due to rising electricity prices should not flow into the relief.
Brussels is currently considering how to get the paradoxical situation on the electricity market under control. According to Chancellor Olaf Scholz (SPD), the federal government wants to wait and see what is decided at EU level. But one will also act “quickly” nationally if necessary.
The energy expert at the German Institute for Economic Research (DIW), Claudia Kemfert, sees essential parts of the relief package planned by the coalition critically. The electricity price brake for basic consumption indirectly subsidizes electricity consumption, “the prices do not provide sufficient incentives to save,” Kemfert told the Tagesspiegel. That applies even more to gas, so she is glad that at least there is no gas price brake. It is not the prices that should be capped, but the costs. “Therefore, the financial relief is basically going in the right direction,” emphasized Kemfert.
Postponing CO2 pricing is also wrong and counterproductive. “We shouldn’t push climate protection backwards, it must be continued,” said Kemfert. Germany must get away from fossil energies as quickly as possible towards more energy saving, renewable energies and the transport turnaround. Kemfert advocates an “emergency booster program” for the faster expansion of renewable energies, including a booster program for skilled workers.
On the other hand, Kemfert thinks it is right that the traffic light in the reform of the electricity market design and the associated skimming off of profits for energy companies is concentrated on Europe. But the right design is important. “Renewable energies must not be stalled under any circumstances,” criticized the energy expert.