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Federal Council Approves Amendments of Electricity and Gas Grid Charges Ordinance and Incentive Regulation on Conditions

The Federal Council (Bundesrat) approved the bill for an ordinance amending the electricity and gas grid charges ordinances (StromNEV and GasNEV), the Incentive Regulation Ordinance (ARegV) and the Electricity Grid Access Ordinance (StromNZV). However, the approval is subject to several conditions. The Federal Government had decided on the proposal in June [1]. Furthermore, the Bundesrat passed a declaration asking the government for further amendments of ARegV and StromNZV.

The Bundesrat in principle cleared the way for a retightening of Section 19 para. 2 StromNEV, which was introduced in 2011, and provides that end consumers can apply for an exemption of grid charges if the electricity consumption at a delivery point (Abnahmestelle) exceeds 7,000 hours and 10 GW. The provision had drawn much criticism from various sources, not least consumer protection agencies. The Higher Regional Court of [2] recently held that the provision was void and the European Commission [3] launched an inquiry for breach of the Union’s state aid rules.

The amendment reintroduces staggered reductions of the grid fees and does no longer foresee a total exemption. In case of an electricity consumption at the delivery point of at least 10 GW and 7,000 hours the amendment provides for a reduction of the grid charges to 20% of the published grid charges, to 15% for a consumption of at least 10 GW and 7,500 hours and to 10% for a consumption of 10 GW and 8,000 hours.

While the Bundesrat did not ask for modifications regarding the above reduction rates, it only approved on condition of modifications that shall provide for a transitional arrangement between the currently applicable Section 19 para. 2 sent. 2 StromNEV with the full exemption of grid charges and the amended provision as proposed by the government. According to one of the modifications suggested, exemptions of grid charges that were granted in 2011, 2012 and 2013 for an unlimited period of time shall expire on 31 December 2013 (cf. BT-Drucks. 447/13, page 20, no. 5 a bb)).

Another important modification demanded by the Bundesrat relates to the pooling of points of supply pursuant to the Electricity Grid Charges Ordinance (Stromnetzentgeltverordnung – StromNEV).

Pooling means that several supply points of one customer connected to a grid are aggregated if electricity is transmitted at the same time. It is often used by industrial consumers, who can thus reduce costs. In September 2011 [4] the Federal Network Agency (BNetzA) ruled that with very few exceptions Section 17 StromNEV in principle provided for an individual calculation of grid charges for each point of supply. The agency granted a grace period until the end of the first regulation period in December 2013 for pooling agreements that were in place prior to 1 January 2011.

The amendments made by the Bundesrat are aimed at providing a regulatory framework for pooling, which is widely made use of, in order to avoid costly grid expansion and enhancement, the Bundesrat said. Besides a limitation of pooling would conflict with the security of supply, the Bundesrat remarked.

Furthermore, the Bundesrat passed a declaration in which it asked the government to replace the currently applicable provisions in ARegV that set the conditions for including investment costs in the revenue caps for grid operators by a new system that allows for an inclusion without delay and thus provides more incentives for grid expansion. Besides the Bundesrat stated doubts with regard to an amendment of Section 12 StromNZV as proposed by the government on grounds of data and consumer protection and asks for amendments.

In view of the conditions set by the Bundestag for its approval, the government will have to decide whether it accepts the changes and to proceed with the amended amendments.

Source: Bundesrat [5]

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