Germany clamps down on "dirty power" imports

Government seeks voluntary commitment from utilities, warns of legal restriction if talks fail

The German government has warned that it will legislate to prevent utilities from importing "dirty" electricity from foreign plants that do not meet EU safety and environmental standards unless generators accept voluntary curbs. The economics ministry and German power firms are currently in negotiations aimed at a voluntary agreement.

The exact definition of dirty electricity has still to be hammered out, an economics ministry spokesperson told ENDS Daily today. Broadly, however, it will mean power from central and eastern European countries generated either by nuclear plants that don't meet EU safety standards or coal-fired plants that don't meet EU environmental standards.

The spokesperson said that negotiations for a voluntary agreement were still at an early stage and it was hoped that legislation could be avoided. He said the ministry wanted the subject to be taken up by the European Commission as part of negotiations for EU accession countries and that the debate could ultimately lead to an ecolabel for electricity.

Economics minister Werner Müller says in an interview to be published in the magazine "Capital" tomorrow: "German importers such as EoN and RWE should write into their procurement contracts the standards that are to be adhered to in electricity production." Mr Müller complains that the German utilities risk keeping dirty eastern power stations in business while shutting cleaner plants at home because they can't match the prices charged by companies that spend less on environmental controls.

His announcement comes at a time when German power companies are planning plant closures due to domestic over-capacity and falling prices following market liberalisation. RWE and EoN both announced a series of closures last month (ENDS Daily 11 October).

Follow Up:
German economics ministry, tel: +49 30 20140; Capital, tel: +49 30 20 224 290.

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