In the future, the state in Germany should be able to access energy companies more easily if there is a risk of significant supply bottlenecks. On Thursday, the Bundestag approved a corresponding reform of the Energy Security Act from 1975 with the votes of the government factions SPD, Greens and FDP as well as the left. The AfD rejected the plans, the Greens abstained. The Federal Council still has to approve the project, which according to Federal Minister of Economics Robert Habeck (Greens) could happen on Friday next week.
The new version of the law provides that companies that operate critical energy infrastructure can be put under trusteeship if necessary. As a last resort, expropriation of companies is also possible if there is no other way to ensure the security of the energy supply. This extended scope for action could possibly become relevant in the case of the PCK oil refinery in Schwedt, Brandenburg.
This is extremely important for East Germany’s oil supply. So far, it has primarily processed Russian oil. PCK is majority owned by Rosneft Germany, a subsidiary of the Russian state-owned company Rosneft. Because of the embargo on Russian oil imports discussed at EU level, Habeck is looking for alternative oil sources for Schwedt via Rostock, possibly also via Danzig. The law could also play a role in the gas sector.
Companies in the energy sector are part of the critical infrastructure in Germany. This means that they have a special meaning for everyday life, which is why their own specifications apply. If there is a “concrete risk” that a company will not fulfill its tasks and the security of supply is threatened, the reformed law can temporarily place it under trusteeship. In order to ensure security of supply, the possibility of expropriation is created for companies in critical infrastructure as a last resort.
If, in particular, gas imports to Germany are significantly reduced, gas suppliers are given the right to adjust their prices – i.e. to increase them. The prerequisite is that the second or third level in the gas emergency plan, the alarm or emergency level, has been officially established. Customers must be informed in good time and have the right to cancel. The exemption for temporarily increased prices expires when the Federal Network Agency formally determines that the shortage has ended.
While the AfD politician Rainer Kraft accused the coalition of a poorly and hastily made law and “neo-communist ideas”, the other two opposition groups, the CDU/CSU and the Left Party, signaled basic support. CDU politician Mark Helfrich said the Union would have liked to support the traffic light, but had stomach ache at the point of price adjustments in the event of gas shortages. Therefore, the Union can only abstain. For the left, MP Matthias Birkwald criticized the fact that state-controlled companies should be privatized again after the risk to security of supply has subsided. Nevertheless, the left agrees with the law.
The Energy Security Act has changed only slightly since 1975. In the parliamentary process, the FDP had prevailed against the government draft that after a company has been nationalized, it must later be privatized again. The Federal Council must now deal with the amendment next, probably on May 20th.
The Bundestag also passed the 2022 tax relief law on Thursday, one of the reactions of the traffic light coalition to the sharp rise in energy prices. The traffic light factions of the SPD, Greens and FDP voted for the bill. The union voted against it. AfD and Left abstained.
The law turns three adjusting screws. The employee lump sum for income-related expenses will be increased by 200 euros to 1200 euros retrospectively as of January 1, 2022. This also applies to the increase in the basic allowance for income tax by EUR 363 to EUR 10,347. Long-distance commuters can also claim 38 cents per kilometer from the tax retrospectively from the beginning of the year from the 21st kilometer. According to the Ministry of Finance, the measures will lead to a reduction in tax revenue from federal, state and local governments of around 4.5 billion euros this year. In the years up to 2026, too, the revenue shortfall will be more than four billion euros.
The Bundestag had previously approved the immediate surcharge for children. “From July 1, around 2.9 million children affected by poverty in Germany will receive an additional 20 euros a month,” said the new Federal Minister for Family Affairs, Lisa Paus (Greens). “And there is the children’s bonus 2022 as an additional one-time payment for families of 100 euros per child.”