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Global Economy

Twelve companies want the gas surcharge

The list of energy companies that want to use the gas levy is now official: According to the Trading Hub Europe joint venture, which published a list today, twelve companies in the industry have registered to use the levy. Among them are Uniper, the EnBW subsidiary VNG, the utility EWE, Wingas, which belongs to the former Gazprom Germania, now Sefe, and WIEH GmbH.

A number of foreign companies are also on the list: the Austrian oil and gas group OMV, the Swiss energy trading company Axpo and the Dutch-Swiss commodities trader Vitol and its Swiss competitor Gunvor. There are also the Swiss companies DXT Commodities and Enet Energy.

Overall, according to the Federal Ministry of Economics, there are claims totaling around 34 billion euros, which are to be reimbursed via the gas levy.

RWE and Shell waive the surcharge

The energy company RWE has also registered for the levy, but has already announced that it does not want to use the funds. RWE explained today: "Yes, we are formally listed there, but have not reported or claimed any financial damage there. As is known, we bear the losses ourselves."

A spokeswoman said that registration formally constitutes a legal claim. However, RWE is "not planning any claims in the future either". In the first half of the year, RWE had earned 2.8 billion euros – over a third more than in the same period last year.

beneficiaries of high energy prices

Shell also forgoes the use of the gas surcharge. A spokeswoman announced this last week. "Shell and RWE apparently deliberately decided against a gas surcharge so as not to become publicly vulnerable," Jörg Scheyhing, managing director of the energy consulting company ECG, told tagesschau.de. For other gas importers like VNG, it's about a lot of money: "They can't just do without it."

However, foreign energy companies in particular are currently benefiting from the high oil, gas and electricity prices. In the first half of the year, some of them were able to increase their profits by up to 200 percent.

Risk according to CEO "non-existential"

According to experts, it is also questionable whether some German applicants are really dependent on the gas levy. The gas importer VNG suffered losses in the first six months of this year, but belongs to the energy supplier EnBW. And this made a profit of 1.4 billion euros in the first half of the year. EnBW boss Frank Mastiaux recently said in the "Handelsblatt" that it was unlikely that VNG could get into trouble like Uniper. The risk is "not small, but not existential".

The Oldenburg utility EWE is also profitable. In the past financial year, the Lower Saxony company earned around 355 million euros from operations. In addition, EWE has a financially strong partner in the Ardian investment company. Ardian holds 26 percent of the utility.

criticism of consumer advocates

Consumer advocates have criticized companies that want to take advantage of the gas levy without actually needing it. The head of the Federal Association of Consumer Centers (vzbv), Ramona Pop, warned against supporting the wrong companies. "The federal government has clearly stated that it wants to prevent insolvencies with the gas levy, but that it should rule out securing profits at the expense of consumers," she said in the "Handelsblatt". It is urgently necessary that those companies "who want to benefit from the levy despite bubbling profits are not given any support". It should not be the case that consumers finance companies' profits and dividends.

Expensive alternative deliveries

In theory, any company importing Russian gas could apply for the gas surcharge. According to estimates by experts such as Scheyhing, up to 20 companies could be considered in Germany.

Gas importers are currently being forced to buy expensive alternatives in order to honor their contracts because of significantly curtailed Russian supplies. In order to avoid imbalances and ultimately to ensure security of supply, they can pass on 90 percent of the resulting additional costs from October. These are to be distributed to all end customers via the gas surcharge.

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