By Markus Wacket
BERLIN, Jan 28 (Reuters) - Germany's environment minister announced a plan on Monday to lower the price of electricity for consumers - just in time for September's national elections - by sharing the cost of the switch to renewable energy more evenly with companies.
Environment Minister Peter Altmaier said laws would be passed by Aug. 1 this year capping increases in subsidies to renewable power producers for two years and allowing feed-in tariffs to new installations to be suspended for a few months.
'It is not acceptable that electricity consumers should keep bearing all the risk of the future costs on their own,' the minister, who is from Chancellor Angela Merkel's conservative Christian Democrats (CDU), told reporters.
His plan would need the approval of the economy ministry, run by the conservatives' Free Democrats (FDP) allies, as well as the support of Germany's 16 federal states, many of which are run by the centre-left opposition.
Altmaier is a close Merkel aide who was put in charge of the environment portfolio last year to steer through dramatic U-turn on nuclear power after the Fukushima disaster. This saw Germany drop plans to keep its nuclear power stations running and commit instead to a dramatic increase in renewable power sources.
The resulting increase in the rise of electricity to German consumers - and industry's concerns about the risk of shortages - pose a potential threat to Merkel's bid for a third term in September's elections.
Altmaier's plan foresees a contribution from owners of existing green energy installations of 300 million euros ($404 million) while the suspension of feed-in tariffs to newcomers could save up to 500 million euros more, he said in a statement.
The so called 'Umlage', Germany's renewable power surcharge,
would remain unchanged at 5.287 cents per kilowatt hour this year and next, and any increase in following years would be capped at 2.5 percent per year, he said.
Support for existing green power installations could be reduced by between 1 and 1.5 percent for limited period, he said, while companies with high-energy consumption would have to bear a greater burden for renewable power subsidies.
($1 = 0.7421 euros)
(Writing by Stephen Brown) Keywords: GERMANY POWER/PLAN
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