Energy firms plan legal attack on nuke phaseout

Germany's leading energy companies are hiring top lawyers to mount a legal challenge against government plans to phase out nuclear power by 2022. The firms are hoping to secure massive compensation deals.

Energy firms plan legal attack on nuke phaseout
Photo: DPA

According to a report in news magazine Der Spiegel, the energy companies have hired top law firms to prepare their case, including Linklaters, Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer, Clifford Chance and Gleiss Lutz.

A document drawn up by Gleiss Lutz says the energy companies own the surplus electricity generated by their nuclear power stations, which is therefore protected by property law in the German constitution.

The lawyers say the government has failed to supply “stringent reasons” for their new phaseout plan, drawn up over the past three months, and that the energy companies are therefore entitled to compensation – amounting to several billion euros.

If a deal is not struck with the government, the Swedish firm Vattenfall is even threatening to take a case to international courts over their nuclear reactor Krümmel, which was shut down permanently in mid-March.

The companies are also planning to challenge the government’s tax on nuclear fuel.

Horst Seehofer, head of the Christian Social Union, dismissed the legal challenges as hopeless. “We are not going to make a deal. Our actions are legally flawless and politically independent,” he told the Financial Times Deutschland.

Chancellor Angela Merkel’s cabinet signed a package of bills this month that foresee Europe’s biggest economy being nuclear-free by 2022 – earlier than previously envisaged.

Germany’s nine reactors currently on line are due to be turned off between 2015 and 2022.

The seven oldest reactors were taken off-line after Japan’s massive March 11 earthquake and a tsunami knocked out cooling systems at the Fukushima Daiichi plant, causing reactors to overheat and radiation to be released.

The Local/bk

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Could the Norwegian government introduce a cap on energy prices? 

Due to soaring prices, the Norwegian government is mulling over several solutions, including a potential price cap for electricity and limiting energy exports abroad. 

Could the Norwegian government introduce a cap on energy prices? 

High energy exports in the last 12 months, low filling levels in Norwegian reservoirs and an uncertain energy situation around Europe have led to soaring electricity prices in southern Norway. 

Last year the government introduced a scheme whereby it covers 80 percent of consumers’ energy bills where the price rose above 70 øre/kWh. The portion of the bill under 70 øre is paid in full by households. The portion the government covers will increase to 90 percent in October. 

Critics have argued that the current scheme still leaves households struggling with their bills. As a result, Norway’s government has said it is mulling its options to curb energy bills.

Norway primarily depends on hydroelectric dams to help it meet its energy needs. Still, reservoirs in southern Norway have been at the lowest level for ten years, public broadcaster NRK reports. 

Low reservoir filling over the past year has conceded with record exports with higher prices on the continent, making sending power abroad an enticing proposition.

Recently, exports have fallen significantly, and the government is considering introducing a limit to reduce the possibility of energy rationing being introduced this winter. 

“Restrictions on the export of electricity to Europe may be one of the measures that is needed,” Elisabeth Sæther, state secretary at the Ministry of Oil and Energy, told NRK. 

Earlier this week, Prime Minister Jonas Gahr Støre ruled out completely shutting off exports to the continent. 

“It is a dangerous thought and will not serve us well. It could give us more expensive power and lack of power in given situations. We will hardly be able to import power when we need it without contributing to other countries when they need it. There is a reciprocity in this,” he told the newspaper Aftenposten earlier in the week. 

Sæther also told NRK that the government was weighing up putting a maximum price on energy but warned that it could have unforeseen consequences. 

“We are afraid that a maximum price means that more water is drawn into the reservoirs, which we need for the winter. It is a serious situation. We must prevent ourselves from getting into a situation where we lack enough power this winter,” she told the broadcaster. 

At the end of May, the state-owned Statnett announced that the supply situation in Norway might be under strain – in some scenarios – all the way up to and through the winter, especially if Southern Norway experiences drier than usual weather in the second part of the year.