BERLIN (Reuters) – Only a small part of a gas levy on German consumers will benefit companies that are not in danger of a liquidity crisis, Economy Minister Robert Habeck said in an interview on Tuesday, responding to calls to tweak the proposed mechanism.
Less than 10% of the levy would go to “free riders”, said Habeck, who defended it as necessary to ensure Germany’s security of supply as criticism mounted that the charge will also reward profitable companies that don’t need it.
German households will have to pay several hundred euros more a year for gas under the levy, to be imposed from Oct. 1 until March 2024, to help utilities cover the cost of replacing Russian supplies.
Uniper, Germany’s largest importer of Russian gas, is unable to buy gas and especially needs the levy money, added Habeck.
The bill for bailing out the utility group rose to an eye-watering 19 billion euros ($19 billion) after Uniper requested more financial help from the German government on Monday.
Habeck told Deutschlandfunk radio that companies benefiting from the levy even though they are not being hit by the energy crisis is a problem still being worked out.
According to several Italian papers on Tuesday, Germany is willing to consider a potential price cap on gas, citing a text message sent by Habeck to EU energy ministers.
($1 = 1.0003 euros)
(Reporting by Christian Kraemer, Writing by Miranda Murray; Editing by Kim Coghill, Kirsten Donovan)