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German utilities launch lawsuit against UK nuclear plant

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German renewable energy suppliers act over the state aid awarded for Hinkley Point C

An alliance of 10 German renewable energy suppliers is taking legal action against the state aid awarded for Hinkley Point C, which was approved by the European Commission.

Greenpeace Energy, Energieversorgung Filstal, Austrian energy producer Oekostrom AG, and the municipal utilities of Aalen, Bietigheim-Bissingen, Bochum, Mainz, Muhlacker, Schwabisch Hall and Tubingen are jointly lodging an appeal against the decision to award subsidies amounting to more than €100 billion for the new nuclear power plant.

The alliance claimed artificially low prices of electricity derived from subsidised nuclear plants would increase prices paid by German consumers by up to 12%.

Sonke Tangermann, managing director of Greenpeace Energy, said: “We are taking legal action against these exorbitant nuclear subsidies because they appear to be ecologically and economically senseless and signify serious disadvantages for other energy providers, for renewables, and for consumers.

“Calculations made on behalf of Greenpeace Energy show that alone the state-guaranteed remuneration (feed-in tariff) for Hinkley Point C over a period of 35 years, including adjustments for inflation, adds up to €108 billion. The British government is also providing credit guarantees for the construction of the nuclear power plant that amount to more than €20 billion as well as other guarantees for investors.”

Tangermann added: “Hinkley Point C must not be a door opener for the return of hazardous and expensive nuclear power in Europe. Now is the last chance for the German government to follow through on its own energy policies and support parties taking legal action, or go to court itself against the state aid decision of the European Commission just as Austria, Luxembourg and our action alliance have already done.”

Germany's Ministry for Economic Affairs has told the alliance that there is little chance of success. However, Dr Dorte Fouquet, partner at international law firm Becker Buttner Helde – which is representing the action alliance before the Court of Justice of the European Union, said: “In contrast to the commission's argumentation, the expansion of nuclear power is not in the common interests of the European Union; in fact it is illegal today in many member states.”

Fouquet says she has discovered several other errors of in the commission's decision. For instance, the commission ignored the fact that there was no tendering procedure for Hinkley Point C. “And, the Euratom Treaty, which the commission relied on for its argumentation, does not substantiate State Aid. On the whole, the European Commission applied an incorrect evaluation benchmark because these British subsidies are an unlawful State Aid and not an investment aid,” she added.

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