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Germany to compensate energy firms €2.4b for nuclear exit

General view of the nuclear power plant that will be dismantled in Muelheim-Kaerlich, Germany, May 22, 2017. — Reuters pic

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BERLIN, March 5 — Germany will pay energy companies a total of €2.4 billion (RM11.8 billion) in compensation for its decision to exit nuclear energy in the wake of the 2011 Fukushima disaster, Berlin said today.

By the end of 2022, Germany will have achieved its goal of completely phasing out nuclear power, set by Chancellor Angela Merkel in May 2011 after a deadly earthquake and tsunami caused three reactors to melt down in Japan’s Fukushima plant.

“The government has reached an agreement with EnBW, E.ON/PreussenElektra, RWE and Vattenfall,” Germany’s environment, finance and economy ministries said in a joint statement.

They added that Berlin would pay a total of €2.428 billion compensation to the four companies, all of which operate nuclear power plants in Germany. 

The payments, agreed after a long legal battle between the government and the energy companies, will cover both the costs of unproduced electricity and investments the companies had made before Germany decided on its nuclear departure in 2011.

“The agreement has no impact on the exit from nuclear power. It is still the case that the last German nuclear plant will be shut down by the end of 2022 at the latest,” the statement added. 

The plan was met with widespread public support in a country with a powerful anti-nuclear movement, fuelled first by fears of a Cold War conflict and then by disasters such as Chernobyl.

Yet it represented a dramatic change of course by Merkel’s ruling conservatives, who just a few months earlier had agreed to extend the lifespan of Germany’s oldest power stations.

Power companies dismayed by the nuclear U-turn immediately sued and won a court order for government compensation.

Berlin in 2018 then set out conditions for a payout which would run to hundreds of millions of euros, but was ordered to revise it by Germany’s highest court in 2020.

Ruling on a case brought by Swedish group Vattenfall, the constitutional court said the plan was “unreasonable” as it required energy companies to make changes to move away from nuclear power first before knowing how much compensation they would receive.

In today’s statement, Berlin said the latest agreement would “put to rest” the legal dispute and oblige the energy companies not to bring further cases. — AFP

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