Brussels, 6 March 2013
State aid: Commission opens in-depth inquiry into potential aid for large electricity consumers exempted from network charges in Germany
The European Commission has opened an in-depth investigation to find out whether an exemption for large electricity consumers from network charges granted in Germany since 2011 constitutes state aid. If this turns out to be the case the Commission will further examine whether the exemption is likely to unduly distort competition in the EU or whether it can be justified. Opening an in-depth investigation does not prejudge its outcome. It allows Germany and third parties to comment on the measure under review.
Since 2011, large electricity consumers are by law (§19(2) of the German Network Charges Ordinance) exempted from paying network charges. This exemption, estimated to amount to around €300 million in 2012, is financed by the final electricity consumers who must pay a special levy, the so-called §19-surcharge, since 2012.
Since December 2011, the Commission has received several complaints from consumer associations, energy companies and citizens alleging that this exemption constitutes unlawful and incompatible State aid.
The Commission's preliminary view is that the §19-surcharge may constitute a State resource and that the exemption seems to give the beneficiaries a selective advantage compared to their competitors in other Member States. This is likely to distort competition within the EU internal market. At the same time, the Commission will carefully examine whether the exemption can be justified by an objective of common interest and if so, whether this could outweigh the negative impact on competition.
The Commission will also examine more in detail whether the exemption was financed from State resources already in 2011 when no specific §19-surcharge was yet levied.
The Commission has already dealt with several state aid cases related to subsidies that reduced electricity-related costs for certain undertakings (preferential electricity tariffs: IP/09/1750, IP/07/1727, IP/11/864, IP/11/215; see also IP/12/397; partial exemption from contributing to the funding of green electricity: IP/11/265). In connection with network-related costs, the Commission has dealt with payments for interruptability services, finding that such payments did in those cases not constitute state aid (IP/10/617, IP/12/1056). However, this is the first case dealing with an exemption from network charges.
The non-confidential version of the decision will be made available under the case number SA.34045 in the State Aid Register on the DG Competition website once any confidentiality issues have been resolved. New publications of state aid decisions on the internet and in the Official Journal are listed in the State Aid Weekly e-News.