Energy industry considers earlier start impossible

Stuttgart at night

Under pressure from the federal states, the federal government is now planning to introduce the electricity and gas price brake earlier – but the energy companies are refusing.

(Photo: dpa)

Berlin According to the Federal Association of Energy and Water Industries (BDEW), the start dates for electricity and gas price brake unrealistic. “As understandable as the desire for a quick start is, nobody benefits if this quick start then fails in reality,” said Kerstin Andreae, BDEW Managing Director, to the Handelsblatt.

She emphasizes: “It’s not about a lack of will, the energy industry is doing everything in its power to implement relief as quickly as possible.”

According to the original plan, the two price brakes should start on March 1st. However, the schedule has since faltered. The country heads had criticized that a price brake that would only take effect at the end of winter was a mistake.

Energy crisis in Europe: Is an earlier start of the gas and electricity price brake even possible?

The federal government has therefore changed its mind. In a joint key issues paper by the Federal Chancellery, the Federal Ministry of Economics and the Federal Ministry of Finance from the beginning of November, it is now stated that the electricity price brake should “take effect as early as January 1, 2023”. A postponement is only planned in the paper in the event of an emergency: “If operational implementation is not possible immediately on January 1, 2023, the relief should be implemented at a later date retroactively to this date.”

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As recommended by the Gas Commission, March 1st is mentioned in the paper as the starting date for the gas price brake. In addition, it says: “In addition, a retrospective relief as of February 1st is being sought.”

>> Read also: This is how gas and electricity price brakes work – and that’s in for consumers

The core of the electricity and gas price brake is to inform consumers a basic quota of electricity, gas and heat at capped prices to offer. In addition, it is planned to grant gas customers “emergency aid” in December by waiving the down payment in that month. Separate rules apply to large industrial consumers.

Changeover could take up to eight weeks – staff chaos threatens

In order for the relief to actually reach the people, politicians must concentrate on what is feasible, warns BDEW boss Andreae. “The electricity and gas price brakes require the conversion of complex IT processes. That doesn’t happen overnight, it has to be implemented by specialized IT service providers,” she said.

A start of the electricity price brake on January 1st is therefore “not feasible”. The same applies to bringing forward the gas price brake from March 1st to February 1st. The time pressure is already enormous.

An internal note from the BDEW states that the conversion of the IT systems is expected to take “up to eight weeks, starting with the final legislative determination of the framework conditions”. The note is based on feedback from the BDEW member companies.

But there is no law yet – and here too the schedule is already shaky. According to previous planning, the Federal Cabinet is to decide on electricity and gas price brakes on November 18th. The Bundestag should then decide on the regulations at the beginning of December, and a decision by the Bundesrat was expected on December 16th. “By Christmas 2022” the laws would then come into force, according to a timetable from the federal government.

However, government spokeswoman Christiane Hoffmann said on Monday that the cabinet would no longer be able to deal with it this week. The necessary preparations and coordination with the EU are too complex.

The BDEW note states that implementation is made more difficult by staff shortages. The implementation phases, which last several weeks, can only be met “if all experts within the company can be involved in the implementation”. However, these are already planned for the whole of 2023 with the implementation of other regulatory requirements.

Skimming off profits: companies warn against being overwhelmed

Also the planned one Contingency Winnings stands on shaky foundations according to the industry. Numerous pitfalls are pointed out in a nine-page paper that BDEW has drawn up together with the Association of Municipal Enterprises (VKU).

In particular, BDEW and VKU fear that network operators who are supposed to skim off profits will be overwhelmed. The data required for this would not be available to the network operators, it is said.

More: How tenants get an overview of their energy consumption

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