The federal government could invest billions in tax money in energy companies – to save them. The legal basis for this could soon be created.

In the gas crisis, the federal government wants to create a “protective shield” for ailing energy companies. Legal changes are intended to create the conditions for the federal government to be able to invest in companies like Uniper. In the Corona crisis, the federal government supported Lufthansa with billions of dollars and took a stake in the group.

The Ministries of Economics, Finance and the Federal Chancellery agreed in principle on a draft, as government circles said on Monday. The “Spiegel” reported about it first.

A draft amendment to the Energy Security Act was also available to the German Press Agency. This regulates financial aid through to the acquisition of company shares in order to be able to avert the bankruptcy of a gas supplier.

The state and thus the taxpayer could now give energy suppliers like Uniper financial support. This was referred to in coalition circles as the first option. The other possibility would be that gas customers would pay price increases – but this could lead to drastic price increases for consumers.

From government circles it was said that the federal government is preparing itself further for a worsening of the situation on the energy markets. As a precaution, the tool kit should be expanded again. It is about being able to act in the event of further increases in gas prices and a worsening of the situation in the coming months. It is also planned that measures to save energy can also be taken before the crisis occurs.

If energy companies are unable to pay the high prices or not fulfill their contracts, there is a risk of financial difficulties and even bankruptcies. “But if the energy companies break away, there is a risk of serious disruption in the entire market along the supply chain right down to the end consumer.”

From coalition circles it was said that the traffic light groups should probably agree to the changes on Tuesday. The circles said that drastic price jumps for gas customers should be prevented with stabilization measures for companies like Uniper, probably worth billions.

Russia had severely curtailed supplies through the Nord Stream 1 Baltic Sea pipeline. As a result, Germany’s largest importer of Russian natural gas, Uniper, encountered turbulence and called for state aid. As Uniper had announced, a number of instruments are possible for this – such as guarantees and security payments through to equity investments. That means the state would get involved with Uniper. The federal government had confirmed that it would talk to Uniper about stabilization measures.

As a major gas importer, Uniper plays a central role in Germany’s energy supply and supplies many municipal utilities. However, Uniper is currently unable to pass on additional costs for gas intake to customers – the company had announced that this would result in significant financial burdens.

The existing Energy Security Act allows utilities to have a “right to adjust prices”. To do this, the Federal Network Agency must have formally determined a “considerable reduction in the total volume of gas imported into Germany”, which has not yet happened. If the mechanism is activated, suppliers could pass on their current additional costs to their customers within a short period of time and lead to large price jumps.

Habeck had warned of a possible “price explosion” at some municipal utilities. In order to distribute price jumps more fairly among consumers, the federal government is therefore working on a pay-as-you-go system. This means that loads could be distributed more evenly among all consumers, as it was said.

Energy companies’ problems could be exacerbated as Nord Stream 1’s annual maintenance work, which typically lasts 10 days, begins on July 11. Then no gas flows through the pipeline. The big concern is that Russia won’t turn on the gas tap again after the maintenance. Habeck and the Federal Network Agency had warned of such a total failure of Russian gas supplies by Nord Stream.

The Federal Network Agency wrote in its management report on Monday that the gas supply in Germany is stable at the moment. The security of supply in Germany is still guaranteed. Gas will continue to be stored. The current level of storage in Germany is therefore 61.85 percent. The primary goal of the federal government is that the storage tanks are almost full at the beginning of the heating period in autumn.