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Relief provided by the energy price brakes

The German government introduced ‘energy price brakes’ in response to the sharp increases in energy prices and the enormous economic burdens associated with them. As of this year, these ‘brakes’ have the effect of reducing the high costs for electricity, gas and district heating, within certain thresholds, for businesses and private households.

Scope of application for the relief

The relief has been applicable since March. For businesses and private households this relief has already been applied retroactively to cover January and February. Generally, no application needs to be filed in order to get this relief. However, to get higher amounts of relief, businesses are obliged to provide information that is relevant for state aid to their energy suppliers or the competent authority. If any uncertainties arise in the group of companies during the collection of the relevant data then this could considerably hamper the estimation of potential energy price brakes for the liquidity plan and the determination of the upper limits under state aid rules. 

Technical implementation

Within the framework of the energy price brakes, from January 2023 to April 2024, the costs incurred for electricity, gas and district heating are capped at a certain price level. The amount of relief then results from the difference between the agreed energy rate and a statutory reference price. The amount of relief is limited to between 70 % to 80 % of the consumption in 2021, or the forecast consumption in 2023. The resulting amount of relief is granted by directly offsetting it in the respective electricity and gas bills. For businesses who receive relief in an amount of more than €2m, by way of the price brakes or other types of state aid, this difference will be capped at specific amounts. The price brakes for district heating are based on the provisions of the price brake on gas.

Upper limits under the state aid rules

As regards the subsidies, requirements under state aid rules and, thus, the upper limits defined by the EU Commission have to be complied with. These upper limits will be based on the crisis-induced additional costs for energy during the period from February 2022 and April 2024 as well as the absolute maximum limit of €4m for businesses that are not particularly affected.

Please note: Businesses that are particularly affected will be able to avail themselves of higher amounts of state aid. A business will be deemed to have been particularly affected if the decline in its EBITDA in 2023 when compared with its EBITDA in 2021 is at least 30%. In this case, it is relevant that the upper limits under the state aid rules do not relate to the separate businesses, but always to the entire group of companies. Therefore, if applicable, there will have to be an allocation between the separate businesses in the group.

Reporting obligations  

Depending on the amount of the monthly relief, some businesses may be obliged to report various matters related to state aid rules. There is a general reporting obligation for businesses whose monthly amount of relief exceeds an overall amount of €150,000. If the amount of relief exceeds - possibly even in a group of companies - a relief sum of €2m during the entire eligibility period then other mandatory reports will have to be submitted. The suppliers should generally have been notified of any expected applicable upper limits and of how the amounts of relief should be allocated to different connectors by 31.3.2023. The final upper limits then have to be communicated to the suppliers by the end of the year. Insofar as the requisite information will only be available at a later date, the report will have to be made without delay. 

Please note: Breaches of the obligation to notify constitute a regulatory offence and could lead to the imposition of a considerable fine.

Reflecting the energy price brakes in the financial projections

For an accurate and reliable liquidity plan as well as for determining the upper limits under the state aid rules it will be necessary to collect the relevant data. Inaccurate and corrupt data can result from, for example, interactions and synergies in the group of companies that have continued to be disregarded. For energy intensive businesses, in particular, ensuring that the relevant data that is collected is as accurate as possible is of crucial importance.

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