Federal Cabinet Approves Legislative Package for Nuclear Phase-Out and Energy Turnaround

The Federal Cabinet (Bundesregierung) today approved a legislative package for a nuclear phase-out that reverses the nuclear extension introduced by last year’s Energy Concept and provides for a phase-out until 2022. The package also contains various draft bills regulating the transition into an age of renewable energy supply until 2050.

The draft bills are not all available yet. However, from the government’s press release the package seems to basically follow an agreement reached in the coalition committee at the end of Maywith some important amendments after last minute talks with the federal states (Länder).

1. Atomic Energy Act (AtG)

The draft bill shall provide for an irreversible phase-out of all seventeen German nuclear power plants by 2022. The seven oldest nuclear power plants which are currently shut down after the government announced a 3-month moratorium following the nuclear accident in Fukushima and the Krümmel plant shall not go online again. The Federal Network Agency has been asked to advise by 1 September 2011 whether or not one of these eight plants shall serve as back-up until 2013.

In last minute talks with the federal states (Länder) the government agreed on a staggered phase out of the nine remaining power plants in the years 2015, 2017, 2019, 2021 and 2022.

The plants shall go offline in the following order:

  • 2015 Grafenrheinfeld (Bavaria),
  • 2017 Gundremmingen B (Bavaria),
  • 2019 Philippsburg II (Baden-Württemberg),
  • 2021 Grohnde (Lower-Saxony), Brokdorf (Schleswig-Holstein) and Gundremmingen C (Bavaria);
  • 2022 Isar II and Neckarwestheim II (Baden-Württemberg) and Emsland (Lower-Saxony).

The press release states also that the search for a permanent nuclear waste disposal site shall be continued. This shall include a further examination of the potential location of Gorleben, as well a concept for compiling general geological criteria and possible alternative disposal option. The government announced to present a plan until the end of the year.

No mention is made in the press release of the nuclear fuel rod tax, which was introduced last year in connection with the nuclear extension. The coalition committee had agreed in late May to keep up the tax. E.ON AG has meanwhile announced to take legal action against the tax.

Amendments were, however, made with respect to the Energy and Climate Fund Act (Gesetz zur Errichtung eines Sondervermögens “Energie- und Klimafonds” – EKFG), which promotes an environmentally-friendly, reliable and affordable energy supply. The nuclear power plant operators who were supposed to provide a large part of the funds suspended making payments due to the 3-month moratorium on the nuclear power extension. Details of an amendment of EKFG have not yet emerged.

2. Renewable Energy Sources Act (EEG)

The government approved an amendment of the Renewable Energy Sources Act. In a key point paper the government says feed-in tariffs would be improved where necessary, i.e. for offshore wind power, hydro power and geothermal energy. On the other hand excessive tariffs would be reduced, i.e. with respect to PV, and simplified, i.e. with respect to biomass.

According to Reuters, the draft bill contains a solar tariff degression of 9% as of 2012 plus additional cuts that depend on the amount of additional capacities. An extra cut of 6% on March 2012 as also proposed in recent drafts was, however, no longer part of the draft bill, Reuters says.

The EEG amendment also introduces an optional market premium and a “flexible premium” for certain biomass plants promoting the sale of electricity outside the EEG feed-in tariff system thus striving for a more market-oriented generation. The grid integration of PV installations shall be improved by making amendments to the feed-in management (Einspeisemanagement) pursuant to Section 11 EEG.

3. Planning and Permitting Procedures

A new Act to Accelerate Planning Procedures (Planungsbeschleunigungsgesetz) shall facilitate the construction of solar power plants attached to and on buildings. In addition the repowering of older wind turbines shall be made easier and land shall be designated in zoning plans for the generation, the distribution, the use and the storage of electricity, heat and cold from renewable energy sources or combined heat and power.

Furthermore, the Act to Accelerate Planning Procedures shall ensure that enough new coal and gas-fired power plants can be built until 2020 to replace the nuclear power plants. The government also announced a new power plant promotion scheme for small and medium-sized operators and improved and extended funding for combined heat and power.

4. Grid Expansion

In order to expand the grids in accordance with the needs in view of the energy shift the government agreed to changes in the German Energy Act (Energiewirtschaftsgesetz – EnWG) allowing for nationwide grid expansion planning. Besides, the government approved of a draft bill for an Act on the Acceleration of Grid Expansion (Netzausbaubeschleunigungsgesetz – NABEG) aimed at building high-voltage lines crossing the borders of the federal states in shorter time.

5.  Tax Incentives for Energy-Efficient Renovations

The government wants to lower greenhouse gas emissions by 40% until 2020 and by 80% until 2050, as the renovation of building holds a great potential for energy and C02 savings. Thus the government adopted a proposal giving tax incentives for the renovation of buildings constructed before 1995. 10% of the renovation costs shall be deductible.

6. Electromobility

The government confirmed its targets included in its electromobility programme and annouced to almost double R&D funding from EUR 1 billion to roughly EUR 2 billion until 2013. Buyers of electric vehicles shall benefit from a number of incentives, i.e. exemption of motor vehicle tax, priority parking and use of bus lanes.

7. Regular Monitoring

The implementation of the modified energy concept shall be closely monitored by experts from the competent ministries and government agencies.

8. Further Steps

A first reading of the legislative package in the Federal Parliament (Bundestag) shall already take place on 9 June 2011. The second and third parliamentary reading and the vote in parliament are scheduled for 30 June 2011. A vote in the Federal Council (Bundesrat), shall take place on 8 July 2011.

Source: Bundesregierung; Reuters; n-tv

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