Die controversial gas surcharge should tip at the latest by tomorrow, Wednesday, in the Federal Cabinet. As the FAZ learned on Tuesday from traffic light groups and the energy industry, the negotiations have entered the decisive phase. The decision may also be made today, on Tuesday evening. It is crucial that one can agree on an alternative to the levy. It is “about a solution that also includes the handling of the relief needs,” it said.
In fact, the end of the surcharge is being negotiated in connection with a gas price brake. In the traffic light coalition, the Free Democrats are pushing for the energy supply to be lowered first before talking about a price cap and state support. The SPD and the Greens in particular want the latter. Statements by the FDP leader and Federal Minister of Finance Christian Lindner and the parliamentary group leader Christian Dürr on Tuesday point to a political barter: before state intervention, the nuclear and coal-fired power plants should continue to generate electricity, and in the gas industry it should be considered to release parts of the reserves bought by the federal government.
On the occasion of the European Economic Conference of the FAZ in Berlin, Lindner told the FAZ podcast that, in addition to a coordinated European approach, national efforts must also be expected, “such as the extension of nuclear energy and economic measures such as the resumption of sales of those stored by the state gas quantities”. The federal government has bought and stored large quantities of natural gas via the Trading Hub Europe (THE) company, and the German storage facilities are more than 90 percent full. These quantities “have to be returned to the market, which reduces the shortage,” demanded Lindner.
He commented in connection with the gas surcharge, a surcharge on the working price for private and commercial customers, which the Ministry of Economic Affairs of Robert Habeck (Greens) to save ailing importers like Uniper. However, since the group is now being nationalized, the surcharge should be abolished shortly after it officially comes into force next Saturday. The first advance payments to Uniper and other importers such as VNG and Sefe are scheduled for the end of the month.
Lid instead of surcharge
Instead of the levy, there should be a gas price cap, similar to electricity. Lindner is open to this, but it is still unclear where the money should come from to pay the difference between the high purchasing and the capped sales tariffs. green and SPD want tax money, Lindner hesitates because he doesn’t want to jeopardize the debt brake. He told the FAZ podcast that expanding the supply of electricity and gas was the first step: “Then there are the questions of supporting the market with public funds.”
Dürr said on Deutschlandfunk that the levy was no longer politically wanted. Initiated by Habeck, she came too late for the Uniper rescue. However, the “legal situation” is that the surcharge will initially take effect on October 1st. According to Dürr, the instrument should be replaced by a gas price brake. It is important to keep the price of gas low in order to avoid damage occurring in private households and companies that later has to be painstakingly repaired by the state, for example through economic aid. The taxpayer cannot bear such large upheavals. Releasing the debt brake is not a good tool against price increases: “If we continue to open the barn door with taxpayer money, that would further fuel inflation.”
New instruments required
Dürr called for new instruments to be found quickly instead of the gas surcharge and to combine these possible market interventions with capacity expansions in energy supply. After all, the high prices are an expression of scarcity. “As the FDP, we can imagine that a gas price brake will come. Now, frankly, I expect the Greens to move on the issue of extending the life of nuclear power plants and restarting coal-fired power plants.”
Eight unused charcoal piles are in reserve. According to the Free Democrat, this increase in electricity must also be reflected in the gas: “We must now also show perspectives, for example how gas can be withdrawn from the gas storage facilities again, so that gas can also be made available to the market again. These are very important instruments.” The gas that is released should not be converted into electricity, but used to produce heat.