The recent amendments of the Atomic Energy Act extending the operating times of the German nuclear power plants remain controversial. Several local utilities (Stadtwerke) are questioning whether the extension is compatible with EU law, and have lodged a complaint with the European Commission.
The nuclear power extension distorts competition to the detriment of the smaller power generating companies, managing director Achim Kötzle of Stadtwerke Tübingen told the regional television and radio station SWR. His company had invested in new capacities, relying on the phase-out timing in the old AtG. These plans had been upset by the AtG amendment. Market distortion had reached a level that was so obvious “that Europe had to do something about it”, Albert Filbert, CEO of the regional utility HSE, a member of the 8KU, an association of eight municipal utilities, said.
The nuclear power plants were written off, hence they could produce energy at unbeatable prices, Johannes von Bergen, Managing Director of the municipal utility of Schwäbisch Hall (Stadtwerke Schwäbisch Hall) explained. According to Mr Filbert, the AtG amendment will cause an estimated loss of about EUR 4.5 billion for public and municipal utilities.
Shortly after the ruling CDU, CSU and FDP government started discussing nuclear power extension, municipal utilities had suggested to either skim off all excess profits or require the nuclear power operators to shut down old coal-fired power plants to the extent that nuclear power plants were online beyond the dates prescribed by the AtG.
Several lawsuits against the AtG amendments are to be expected in Germany. The opposition already announced to file lawsuits with the Federal Constitutional Court in Karlsruhe. These German constitutional law proceedings will be mainly based on the fact that the Federal Council, the legislative body that represents the Länder (German states) on the federal level, is required to consent to the nuclear power extension.
The European Commission has to initially examine the complaint within a month regarding the decision to classify it as a complaint. The Commission may then decide to gather further information, including requesting information from the German federal government. As a next step, the Commission would have to decide whether there is an infringement of EU law which warrants the opening of an infringement procedure. If that is the case, the Commission will addresses a “letter of formal notice” to the Member State, and requests it to submit its observations by a specified date. The Commission tries to decides on the complaint within twelve months of its registration its Secretariat-General.