German Chancellor Olaf Scholz gestures during a news conference on energy situation, at the Chancellery in Berlin, Germany, July 22, 2022. REUTERS/Fabrizio Bensch

The federal government is getting into the ailing energy company Uniper as part of a billion-euro rescue package – gas customers are faced with price increases due to a surcharge. Chancellor Olaf Scholz (SPD) announced this on Friday in Berlin. The levy will come on October 1st or September 1st.

At the same time, Scholz promised relief for the citizens. So there will be a major housing benefit reform at the beginning of next year, said Scholz. Among other things, the circle of beneficiaries will be expanded. It should be prevented that someone is faced with an unsolvable situation, said Scholz. He also spoke of a heating subsidy. The Chancellor said: “You’ll never walk alone” – nobody will be left alone.

Uniper is of paramount importance for the energy supply of citizens and companies, said Scholz. The company can now look stably into the future.

With a levy, the supplier should pass on price increases and thus get some breathing room financially. Scholz (SPD) has promised citizens support for gas price increases. It should be prevented that someone is faced with an unsolvable situation, said Scholz on Friday in Berlin. As part of the rescue package for the energy company Uniper, there should be a surcharge for gas customers. Scholz mentioned a rate of 2 cents per kilowatt hour.

Uniper had applied for state aid. The company has to buy more expensive gas on the market to fulfill contracts because of the curtailment of Russian supplies via the Baltic Sea pipeline Nord Stream 1. This leads to liquidity problems.

From the Chancellor’s point of view, Russia is an uncertain gas supplier. It won’t be any safer than it is, said Scholz. He made it clear that Germany could no longer rely on Russia. “That’s why we prefer to play it safe.” Scholz referred to measures that have already been decided to reduce gas consumption. We will do everything we can to get through this situation as a country.

As announced by Uniper, the stabilization package provides for a capital increase of around EUR 267 million at an issue price of EUR 1.70 per share, excluding shareholders’ subscription rights. At the time of the press conference, Uniper’s share price was around 10 euros.

The capital increase will result in the federal government taking a stake of around 30 percent in Uniper. Furthermore, a so-called mandatory conversion instrument of up to 7.7 billion euros should be issued to the federal government, it said.

These papers are interest-bearing papers that must be converted into shares by the end of the term at the latest. They are therefore considered by rating agencies to be similar to equity. The loan granted to Uniper through the state bank KfW is to be increased from 2 billion to 9 billion euros.

The federal government explained to Uniper during the negotiations that from October 1, 2022, a general mechanism for passing on 90 percent of the replacement procurement costs for all importers as a result of Russian gas cuts should be introduced. Uniper only has commercial customers, including municipal utilities. However, you could pass on the higher costs in a next step.

The agreement stipulates that the federal government is ready to provide further support if losses due to replacement purchases that cannot be offset by operating profits from other business areas exceed an amount of EUR 7 billion.

Despite joining the gas importer, Scholz does not want the federal government to intervene in the operational business. “We don’t want to become entrepreneurs as a state,” he says. But care will be taken to ensure that the state money is used properly.

He also promised that the federal government should not be involved permanently. “It doesn’t have to stay that we’re in it.” When asked whether the debt brake in the federal budget had to be released because of the expenditure for Uniper and the relief for citizens, he replied: “We have the financial leeway we need for this. “

The stabilization measures are subject, among other things, to the approval of the EU Commission under state aid law. Uniper will convene an extraordinary general meeting to obtain shareholder approval for the stabilization measures.

The Bundestag and Bundesrat recently passed amendments to the Energy Security Act. The federal government can therefore issue a levy via a statutory ordinance. The levy system should work in a similar way to the EEG levy to promote green electricity via the electricity bill, which has since been abolished.

With the surcharge, politicians would also send a price signal to consumers that energy savings are worthwhile. Because of the sharp rise in procurement costs on the markets, price increases are coming to consumers anyway.

Federal Economics Minister Robert Habeck (Greens) announced a new package of measures to save energy on Thursday. In view of uncertain Russian deliveries, the provision for the winter should be strengthened. The package also deals with saving energy in public buildings, companies, offices and a mandatory “heating check” in apartments.

Uniper plays a central role in Germany’s energy supply and supplies more than a hundred municipal utilities and industrial companies. Scholz and Habeck had promised Uniper state support.