German Cartel Office Launches Investigation into District Heating Prices

The German Cartel Office has launched an investigation into the prices charged for district heating provided by seven utilities in 30 supply areas all over Germany.

District heating customers had to be protected against excessive prices since they were tied to this kind of heating once they had opted for it, the Cartel Office said, adding that in some areas customers were even required by law to use district heating.

The probe follows the sector investigation into district heating (Sektoruntersuchung Fernwärme) the Cartel Office concluded in August 2012 (cf. press release of 23 August 2012). In this investigation the Cartel Office had gathered data from 2007 and 2008, based on which it had carried out a comparison of the revenue obtained from district heating (Erlösvergleich). It found that the average district heating profits of some companies exceeded the profits of its competitors considerably, at least in some of its supply areas. These discrepancies are the subject of the investigation now launched against: Dalkia GmbH, Hamburg; Danpower Energie Service GmbH, Potsdam; Energie SaarLor Lux AG, Saarbrücken; E.ON Hanse Wärme GmbH, Hamburg; RWE Energiedienstleistungen GmbH, Dortmund (formerly ExxonMobil/Favorit Fernwärme GmbH); Stadtwerke Leipzig GmbH, Leipzig; Stadtwerke Rostock AG, Rostock.

In order to update the findings of the sector investigation, it collected data for the years 2010 to 2012 from the companies investigated now and eight competitors with comparatively low revenue and prices, the Cartel Office said. It pointed out that it would take into consideration that the generation of district heating, the supply via the grids and the sales were usually carried out by one company. Varying conditions for the generation and the grid structure could justify higher prices and profits. This had to be examined carefully. Besides, it had to established to what degree the profitability of district heating plants, which also generated electricity by cogeneration, had suffered from falling electricity prices at the energy exchange due to to increasing input of renewable energy into the grids. In Germany renewable energy has to be purchased by the grid operators, who have to pay fixed feed-in tariffs pursuant to the Renewable Energy Sources Act.

Source: German Cartel Office

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