The European Commission has found that a German scheme promoting electricity production from renewable energy sources and benefitting railway companies is in line with EU state aid rules. The Commission concluded that the aid is limited to compensating railway companies for the opportunity costs that arise from using rail transport rather than a more polluting mode of transport, and therefore furthers common transport objectives without unduly distorting competition in the Single Market.
The German Renewable Energy Act (Erneuerbare-Energien-Gesetz – EEG) 2014 provides support for electricity production from renewable energy sources and from mine gas. This support is financed by contributions levied on electricity consumers (the "EEG-surcharge"). The EEG 2014 grants certain energy-intensive users, including railway companies, reductions from the EEG-surcharge. These reductions constitute state aid because they give their beneficiaries an economic advantage over other companies who have to pay the full surcharge. The Commission verifies whether such aid is in line with EU state aid rules that allow granting aid to further certain objectives of common interest.
The Commission assessed the EEG 2014 on the basis of the new Environmental and Energy Aid Guidelines, and approved it in July 2014. The EEG 2014 entered into force on 1 August 2014. However, specific state aid rules are in force for the railway sector. Therefore, the EEG-surcharge reductions for those companies had to be assessed separately under the provisions of the 2008 Railway Guidelines.
Reductions are granted to very energy-intensive railway companies that consume more than 2 GWh of electricity per year. Moreover, the maximum surcharge for the whole consumption is capped at 20% of the full EEG-surcharge.
The Commission has found that the reductions meet the thresholds allowed under the 2008 Railway Guidelines, i.e. the aid does not exceed 30% of the total costs of rail transport nor 50% of the eligible costs, as defined by the guidelines. This ensures that the aid is limited to compensating railway companies for the opportunity costs that arise from using rail transport rather than a more polluting mode of transport. The Commission therefore concluded that the aid was limited to the minimum necessary to achieve its purpose and was proportionate to the objective pursued, in line with Article 93 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (TFEU).
The non-confidential version of the decision will be made available under the case number SA.38728 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.