The nuclear phase-out until 2022, which the government proposed in the wake of the Fukushima nuclear accident, and the accelerated transition into an age of renewable energy supply can almost go ahead as planned. The Bundesrat (Federal Council) followed the Bundestag’s (Federal Parliament’s) vote of 1 July 2011 and approved the energy legislative package in its last session before the summer break. However, the Energy-Efficient Renovations of Residential Buildings Act was rejected.
Hence, the laws below can enter into force after having been signed by the Federal President Christian Wulff and following promulgation in the Federal Law Gazette:
- 13th amendment of the Atomic Energy Act (AtG) – the actual nuclear energy exit law;
- 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;
- Act Amending Energy Law related Provisions (Gesetz zur Neuregelung energiewirtschaftsrechtlicher Vorschriften), most importantly of the German Energy Act (EnWG);
- 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;
- Act Amending the Energy and Climate Fund Act (Gesetz zur Änderung des Gesetzes zur Errichtung eines Sondervermögens “Energie- und Klimafonds – EKFG -ÄndG);
- Act Strenghtening Climate-Friendly Measures in Towns and Municipalities (Gesetz zur Stärkung der klimagerechten Entwicklung in den Städten und Gemeinden);
- First Act Amending Shipping Laws (Erstes Gesetz zur Änderung schifffahrtsrechtlicher Vorschriften).
Approval by the Bundesrat, the legislative body that represents the federal states, had been uncertain for many of the bills contained in the package. The CDU/CSU/FDP coalition government does not hold a majority in the Bundesrat. While support for the amendment of the Atomic Energy Act (AtG) in the Bundesrat could be expected after the clear majority that the bill received in the Bundestag’s vote, this was not the case for many the other bills.
To be able to decide before the summer break, the Bundesrat had shortened the consultation period for the bills. Still the expert committees of the Bundesrat prepared numerous recommendations to amend the bills. While they endorsed the nuclear phase-out, they recommended that the Bundesrat invoke the Mediation Committee for 5 of the 8 bills of the energy package.
The only bill the Bundesrat eventually did not approve of was the Act on Fiscal Measures Promoting Energy-Efficient Renovations of Residential Buildings (Gesetz zur steuerlichen Förderung von energetischen Sanierungsmaßnahmen an Wohngebäuden), which aims at promoting the energy-efficient renovation of buildings older than 1995 by giving tax incentives. The incentives shall encourage energy-savings in the building sector that accounts for 40% of the German energy consumption. The states opposed the bill for fear of tax losses, which they want to be compensated for by the Federation. Pursuant to the draft bill, tax losses of states and municipalities can amount to roughly EUR 900 million for a period of twelve months. Higher figures are feared by some.
The objections of the Bundesrat for this one bill could be discussed in the Mediation Committee, which has 16 members (equal numbers from the Bundesrat and Members of the Bundestag). The Bundesrat refrained from invoking the Mediation Committee, yet the Bundestag and the government can still do so. The Mediation Committee’s task would be to find consensus between the Bundestag and the Bundesrat to find a majority in the Bundesrat. As the bill is a so-called Zustimmungsgesetz (consent law), consent by the Bundesrat is necessary for the bill to enter into force. Unlike with so-called Einspruchsgesetzen (objection laws), a lack of consent cannot be remedied by another Bundestag’s vote in favour of the bill. If the decision reached by the Mediation Committee deviates from that of the Bundestag, it will be necessary for the Bundestag to vote again on proposals for an amendment of the bill. Of course, the government could also decide to present a revised proposal for energy efficient renovation. In any event, it will probably take a few more months before this piece of the energy package can become law.
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