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German Energy Giants Face Tough Future

The country's energy sector is under pressure from foreign producers and new government regulations. But for now, profits are still up

Energy is a hot topic in Germany today. Germany's giant energy concerns are taking a hard look at their future investments, weighing the costs of building coal-fired plants that may be increasingly taxed down the road while struggling to come up with ways to replace the shortfall that will hit the energy sector when -- and if -- the country's nuclear plants are taken off-line in 2020, as the government has promised.

The issue was pushed into the headlines this week as German energy companies promised a fierce PR and lobbying push directed at the government and public. At issue, in part, are the fees imposed by the government on foreign energy companies trying to compete in the German market. Power producers like Essen's RWE want them kept high, while consumers -- and antitrust officials in Brussels and Berlin -- are mounting pressure on the companies to open the market to competition and drive prices down.