German Economy Minister Robert Habeck on Thursday announced a relief package for businesses to counter a potential energy crisis brought on by Russia shutting down gas deliveries to Europe.
"We will protect German companies and German SMEs," Habeck said during the Bundestag budget debate.
He said an existing cost-curbing program for industry would be opened up to small and medium-sized enterprises.
However, Habeck added that this would be a short term option, and that the government would eventually "change the electricity market design so that favorable costs are passed on to consumers."
Germany will operate subsidies until national and European efforts to curb high electricity and gas prices took effect, according to Habeck.
The European Union's plans for an electricity price brake were roughly in line with German ideas, Habeck said.
EU energy ministers are meeting on Friday and are expected to agree on a bloc-wide plan to address surging energy costs.
Habeck said a gas market intervention would be more complicated, but that there would be corresponding efforts to lower prices.
By early October, the government was hoping to set up a mechanism to reduce gas consumption by companies in exchange for compensation.
However, the most important thing is to put an end to price manipulation by Russian President Vladimir Putin, Habeck said.
Habeck counters criticism over nuclear plants
On Wednesday, Habeck faced severe criticism from the conservative opposition for his energy policies. The opposition have narrowed in on the decision to keep nuclear power plants on standby rather than boot them up and connect them to the grid.
This line of attack was repeated on Thursday, with senior CDU politician Jens Spahn questioning why Habeck — a Greens politician — would rather transport oil on ships than use nuclear power.
Habeck responded by saying the former government — a coalition between the Christian Democrats and their Bavarian sister party, as well as the SPD — had overseen 16 years of energy policy failure that were now being quickly overturned.
aw/wmr (AFP, dpa, Reuters)
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