German Power Grid Fee Waivers Struck Down by Court

A German regulation exempting power intensive industries from paying grid fees was struck down by a national court today shortly after European Union regulators said they are probing whether the waiver constitutes illegal subsidies.

Germany’s Federal Network Agency, which had issued the waiver in 2011, lacks authority for such a step under current law, Wiegand Laubenstein, presiding judge at the Dusseldorf Higher Regional Court, said after delivering ruling today. The decision can be appealed.

Germany’s current energy law “authorizes only to regulate the method to calculate the fee but not a full waiver of these fees,” the court said in a statement. “A complete waiver violates the principle of equal treatment” and European laws.

Companies using large amounts of energy could apply for a waiver under the rules struck down today. Their share of the fees had to be covered by other power users, and some of those sued against the levy. Today’s case was brought by five regional power utilities. It’s one of about 100 suits pending over the issue.

The European Commission said today it would investigate the fee waiver for large electricity customers, valued at 300 million euros ($391 million) last year, following complaints from consumer groups, energy companies and others.