Commission Opens In-depth Inquiry into Potential State Aid for Large Electricity Consumers Exempted from Grid Charges in Germany

The Commission opened an in-depth investigation to find out whether exemptions for large electricity consumers from network charges granted in Germany since 2011 constitutes unlawful state aid. This comes in addition to the Higher Regional Court of yesterday declaring these exemptions void on German constitutional law grounds.

If the exemptions are to be considered state aid, the Commission will further examine whether the exemption was likely to unduly distort competition in the EU or whether it could be justified, the Commission said, pointing out that opening an in-depth investigation did not prejudge its outcome.

The Commission said that since December 2011 it had received several complaints from consumer associations, energy companies and citizens alleging that Section 19 para. 2 sent. 2 StromNEV, which exempts large electricity consumers (on application) from paying network charges, constitutes unlawful and incompatible State aid. The exemption was estimated to amount to around €300 million in 2012, the Commission pointed out. It was financed by the final electricity consumers who must pay a special levy, the so-called § 19-surcharge, since 2012.

The Commission’s preliminary view was that the § 19-surcharge might constitute a State resource and that the exemption seemed to give the beneficiaries a selective advantage compared to their competitors in other Member States, the Commission said. This was likely to distort competition within the EU internal market. At the same time, it would carefully examine whether the exemption could be justified by an objective of common interest and if so, whether this could outweigh the negative impact on competition, the Commission said. It announced to also examine in more detail whether the exemption was financed from State resources already in 2011 when no specific § 19-surcharge was yet levied.

While it had already dealt with several state aid cases related to subsidies that reduced electricity-related costs for certain undertakings and payments for interruptability services in connection with network-related costs, this was the first case dealing with an exemption from network charges, the Commission said.

Source: European Commission

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