German network regulator wants higher returns for grid operators
RANKFURT, June 7 (Reuters) - Germany's network regulator wants to provide operators of power and gas grids higher returns on equity for their outlays, its president said on Wednesday, responding to higher inflation that utilities say threatens investments in these assets.
For investments in newly constructed facilities, the agency, called the Bundesnetzagentur, plans a return on equity of around 7.09%, replacing currently applying 5.03%, while for investments in existing ones, the rate would remain at 5.07%, it said a statement.
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"We take into account the current development of the interest rate environment," Klaus Mueller, Bundesnetzagentur's president, said.
"That's why we want to see better interest on new investments and thus will create noticeable incentives for network operators to spend money."
The regulator must reconcile the needs to stimulate spending by operators and institutional investors - by setting the permitted weighted average cost of capital - while not overburdening consumers.
The rates would be applicable for five years from 2024 for power and from 2023 for gas, based on annually adjusted interest prognoses and a risk surcharge, to allow more immediate refinancing.
Shares in E.ON, Europe's largest operator of energy grids, and smaller peer EnBW were both up 2%.
E.ON said it viewed the move as an interim solution, given an enormous investment requirement for millions of decentralised wind and solar production units and new points of consumption such as electric car charging wallpoints and heat pumps.
"This (requirement) must be reflected in the overall regulatory framework," it said.
Utilities have said they need more money to remain competitive, chiming with grid operators which have published ambitious expansion plans.
Household and industry help to finance operators' investments through grid fees, which make up sizeable parts of their final energy bills.
A decision will probably be made by the end of 2023, the regulator said.
The authority will draw on more autonomy it will gain from the implementation of a European Court of Justice ruling in 2021 awarding it more power, the statement said. The Berlin government cabinet approved steps for implementation last month.
A scheme to compensate offshore grid investments will be calculated separately by mid-October and then fine-tuned with the regulator.
(Reporting by Anastasiia Kozlova, Vera Eckert and Tom Kaeckenhoff; Additional reporting by Christoph Steitz; Editing by Miranda Murray and David Evans)