Despite a heated debate in which the opposition called the government’s shift in its nuclear policy after the Fukushima nuclear accident a act of opportunism, the German Bundestag (Parliament) passed the amendment of the Atomic Energy Act (AtG – ref. no. 17/6070) with a clear majority of 513 to 79 votes and 8 abstentions. The no votes were mainly cast by the Left party.
1. Atomic Energy Act Amendment (AtG)
The AtG amendment reverses the government’s 11th AtG amendment of late October last year, which had extended the life span of the seventeen German nuclear power plants by an average of twelve years. The latest AtG amendment even goes somewhat further than the 2002 exit amendment of the Atomic Energy Act (AtG) adopted under the rule of the than Socialist/Green government. Except in the case that one plant is needed to provide back-up power until 2013, the seven plants that were shut down in March under a nuclear power extension moratorium and the closed Krümmel nuclear power plant will not come online again. The remaining plants will be phased-out in a staggered manner until 2022. Numerous draft bills by the opposition parties, including one by The Left, to enact the nuclear phase-out in the Basic Code (German Constitution) were dismissed.
The AtG amendment forms part of a energy legislative package with which the government intends to accelerate the transition into an age of renewable energy supply. The other bills were also passed with the majority of the ruling Conservative/Liberal (CDU, CSU and FDP) coalition headed by Chancellor Angela Merkel. The following bills only received support by the opposition in the cases listed below:
2. Renewable Energy Act Amendment (EEG)
The Act Amending the Legal Framework for the Promotion of the Electricity Generation from Renewable Energy Sources (Gesetz zur Neuregelung des Rechtsrahmens für die Förderung der Stromerzeugung aus erneuerbaren Energien), which most importantly contains amendments of the Renewable Energy Sources Act (EEG) in Article 1 – (ref.no. 17/6071) was adopted as amended by the Environment Committee of the Bundestag (17/6363). The new law incorporates the government’s expansion targets for renewables of 35% by 2020, 50% by 2030, 65% by 2040 and 80% by 2050. Feed-in tariffs are being raised for offshore wind power, hydro power and geothermal energy, simplified with respect to biomass and modified regarding the degression for PV tariffs (new Section 20a para. 5 EEG extends capacity based additional mid-reduction beyond 2011). The provision on self-consumed solar energy (Section 33 para 2 EEG) is being extended. The capacity limit of 500 kW is being kept and not reduced to 100 kW after Environment Committee interventions. Other Environment Committee amendments relate to onshore wind power feed-in tariffs. They take back cuts of certain tariff bonuses contained in the previous version.
3. German Energy Act Amendment (EnWG)
Parliament passed the Act Amending Energy Law related Provisions (Gesetz zur Neuregelung energiewirtschaftsrechtlicher Vorschriften), most importantly of the German Energy Act (EnWG – ref. no. 17/6072) as amended by the Economics Committee (17/6365). The law aims inter alia at strengthening transmission operators by introducing unbundling provisions for transmission systems. Besides, it introduces joint grid expansion planning by all grid operators and shortens the terms, which apply for consumers that want to change their energy provider.
4. Acceleration of Expansion of Electricity Grid Act (NABEG)
The Bundestag adopted the Act on Measures Accelerating the Expansion of the Electricity Grids (Gesetz über Maßnahmen zur Beschleunigung des Netzausbaus Elektrizitätsnetze), which most importantly includes a new Grid Expansion Acceleration Act (NABEG) in Article 1, but also amends other laws (ref. no. 17/6073) as amended by the Economics Committee (17/6366). Pursuant to the bill, the Federal Network Agency shall be responsible for determining the regional compatibility (Raumverträglichkeit) of extra-high voltage lines that cross the borders of the German federal states (inner-German power lines) or the German state borders itself (transnational power lines). In certain cases the agency shall also conduct the plan determination procedure (Planfeststellung). The changes are intended to speed up grid expansion, which is deemed crucial for the energy transition.
5. Energy-Efficient Renovations of Residential Buildings Act
Bundestag passed the Act on Fiscal Measures Promoting Energy-Efficient Renovations of Residential Buildings (Gesetz zur steuerlichen Förderung von energetischen Sanierungsmaßnahmen an Wohngebäuden– ref. no. 17/6074) as amended by the Finance Committee (ref. no. 17/6358). It shall promote the energy-efficient renovation of buildings older than 1995 by giving tax incentives. Tax privileges are tied to the result of the renovation and require a considerable reduction of the energy consumption, which has to be certified. The expenses can be written off over a period of ten years.
6. Energy and Climate Fund Act Amendment
The Bundestag also passed the Act Amending the Energy and Climate Fund Act (Gesetz zur Änderung des Gesetzes zur Errichtung eines Sondervermögens “Energie- und Klimafonds – EKFG -ÄndG – ref.no.17/6075) as amended by the Budget Committee (17/6356). As of 2012 CO2 emission trading related revenue shall be paid into the fund. The money shall be spent on measures accelerating the phase-out of nuclear energy, for the promotion of an environmentally-friendly, reliable and affordable energy supply and for international climate and environment protection projects. In addition funding for the development of electric cars, which is limited to EUR 300 million annually as of 2014, shall be paid by the fund.
7. Strenghtening Climate-Friendly Measures in Towns and Municipalities Act
Against the votes of Alliance ’90/The Greens Parliament Parliament voted in favour of the Act Strenghtening Climate-Friendly Measures in Towns and Municipalities (Gesetz zur Stärkung der klimagerechten Entwicklung in den Städten und Gemeinden – ref.no. 17/6076) as amended by the Committee on Transport and Building(17/6357). The law contains a climate protection clause that extends the authority to stipulate legal provisions for the use of renewable energy sources and combined heat and power. In addition the clause allows to introduce special provisions for the use of wind power and PV installations attached to or on top of buildings.
8. Offshore Wind Farm Revision
Against the votes of The Left Bundestag adopted the First Act Amending Shipping Laws (Erstes Gesetz zur Änderung schifffahrtsrechtlicher Vorschriften – ref. no. 17/6077) as amended by the Committee on Transport and Building (ref. no. 17/6364). The bill amends the Act on the Scope of Duties Concerning Maritime Navigation (Seeaufgabengesetz), which provides the legal basis for the amendment of the Offshore Installations Ordinance (Seeanlagenverordnung). This amendment shall transfer the authority for the permitting procedure for offshore wind power plants to one single federal agency, the Federal Agency for Maritime Shipping and Hydrography (BSH), in order to accelerate the process.
The Bundesrat, the legislative body that represents the federal states, will debate the bill on 8 July 2011.
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