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Germany

Germany to impose cap on renewables surcharge

Germany is to introduce a cap on the surcharge consumers are forced to pay their electricity bills to finance a move from the use of fossil fuels to renewables. The move follows a major increase at the start of 2013.

Environment Minister Peter Altmaier told a press conference in Berlin that the energy surcharge would be frozen for the next two years and that a cap would be imposed on how fast it could rise after that.

Altmaier said the limitations, which could be implemented as soon as August 1, would contribute to electricity-price stability for German consumers.

"With this, millions of users of electricity, millions of business owners will receive the certainty… that they won't be burdened in an unfair or incalculable way," the minister said.

The surcharge jumped sharply on January 1, 2013, from 3.59 cents per kilowatt hour to 5.277 cents. The means the surcharge will cost a three-person household about 185 euros ($249) this year, 60 euros more than in 2012. The funds are used to subsidize operators who provide renewable sources of energy.

Last autumn, Altmaier said Germany hoped to increase its use of renewables to 40 percent of its energy needs by 2020, up from a previous target of 35 percent.

Chancellor Angela Merkel's conservative government decided in the wake of the Fukushima disaster in Japan in 2011 to completely phase out the use of nuclear energy by 2022. Eight of Germany's oldest nuclear plants have already been shut down.

Chancellor Merkel has promoted the use of renewable sources of energy, the other half of the long-term project known as the "Energiewende" (energy turnaround) one of her government's top priorities.

pfd/hc (dpa, AFP)