Utilities versus government in German legal showdown

The head of E.ON has professed confidence that a legal challenge being brought by Germany’s largest utilities will be successful.

Today is the first day of the lawsuit by utilities challenging the Merkel government’s decision to phase out nuclear power by 2022.

“I have great faith in Germany‘s highest court,” Johannes Teyssen, chief executive of E.ON, told reporters as he arrived for the hearing, adding the company had invested billions in nuclear technology.
Barbara Hendricks and Johannes Teyssen
“We paid our taxes, we paid our wages, we have done what every other company does with its investments.”

If Teyssen’s firm together with RWE and Vattenfall succeed, it could pave the way for $21bn in compensation.

The two-day hearing that opened on Tuesday comes five years after Japan’s Fukushima nuclear disaster, which triggered Chancellor Angela Merkel’s move to speed up the nuclear shutdown and reverse an earlier agreement that extended the lifespans of some plants.

The decision deprived the utilities of one of their main sources of profit and pitched them into crisis as the focus moved to renewables and electricity prices tumbled.

Environment Minister Barbara Hendricks (pictured alongside Teyssen) said she was confident that the government would win the case.

While a decision is expected to take several months, the hearing could provide insight into the thinking on the eight-judge panel, either through its line of questioning or through comments that might hint at its eventual opinion.

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