Rösler welcomes mooted Gazprom expansion

German Economy Minister Philipp Rösler would welcome increased investment by controversial Russian gas giant Gazprom - a topic for Chancellor Angela Merkel's meeting with Russian president Dmitry Medvedev this week

Rösler welcomes mooted Gazprom expansion
Photo: DPA

Despite public misgivings about such business, Rösler told the Financial Times Deutschland (FTD) Gazprom would get a warm welcome from Germany’s business and economic top ranks.

“Openness to foreign investors is one of the reasons of our economic success in Germany,” he said.

“In principle I therefore welcome it when a Russian business like Gazprom is ready to become more involved in the German gas market.”

Last week German energy giant RWE said it would work towards closer cooperation with Gazprom, with the CEOs of both companies signing a declaration to this effect on Thursday.

The companies intend to negotiate forming a joint venture which would handle the currently-owned or to-be-built coal and gas power stations not only in Germany but also the UK and Benelux countries. A potential purchase of RWE shares by Gazprom is also being discussed, the FTD said on Monday.

Der Spiegel reported over the weekend that Merkel and Medvedev were set to discuss the planned cooperation during Tuesday’s governmental consultation meeting in Hannover.

The FTD said that there was significant opposition to the idea within local governments of districts where RWE is based.

Yet Rösler said there was great need for investment in Germany. “We stand before great challenges over the next few years, in order to manage the change in energy use,” he said, referring to the plan to make Germany nuclear free by 2022.

“Therefore we need above all, new capacity with gas power stations. It could be helpful if Gazprom becomes involved.”

Russia is already Germany’s most important gas supplier, accounting for 39 percent of Germany gas imports last year, according to the FTD.

Former Chancellor Gerhard Schröder controversially took a board job with a Gazprom subsidiary company not long after leaving office, during which he maintained notably friendly relations with then Russian President, now Prime Minister Vladimir Putin.

He has since taken up a seat on the board of Russian oil company TNK-BP and was recently in the frame for a Gazprom supervisory board position.

The Local/hc

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Norwegian battery start-up Freyr demands subsidies to complete factory

The Freyr battery start-up has halted construction of its Giga Arctic factory and demanded additional government subsidies, Norway's state broadcaster NRK has reported.

Norwegian battery start-up Freyr demands subsidies to complete factory

Jan Arve Haugan, the company’s operations director, told the broadcaster that the company would not order any more equipment until Norway’s government committed to further subsidies. 

“We are holding back further orders for prefabricated steel and concrete pending clarification on further progress,” he said. “We are keen to move forward, but we have to respect that there is a political process going on, and we have expectations that words will be put into action.” 

Freyr in April 2019 announced its plans to build the 17 billion kroner Giga Arctic in Mo i Rana, and has so far received 4 billion kroner in loans and loan guarantees from the Norwegian government. It has already started construction and hopes to complete the build by 2024-2025. 

Haugan said that the enormous subsidies for green industry in the Inflation Reduction Act voted through in the US in 2022 had changed the playing field for companies like Freyr, meaning Norway would need to increase the level of subsidies if the project was to be viable. 

Freyr in December announced plans for Giga America, a $1.3bn facility which it plans to build in Coweta, Georgia.   

“What the Americans have done, which is completely exceptional, is to provide very solid support for the renewable industry,” Haugen said. “This changes the framework conditions for a company like Freyr, and we have to take that into account.” 

Jan Christian Vestre, Norway’s industry minister, said that the government was looking at what actions to take to counter the impact of the Inflation Reduction Act, but said he was unwilling to get drawn into a subsidy battle with the US. 

“The government is working on how to upgrade our instruments and I hope that we will have further clarifications towards the summer,” he said.

“We are not going to imitate the Americans’ subsidy race. We have never competed in Norway to be the cheapest or most heavily subsidised. We have competed on competence, Norwegian labour, clean and affordable energy and being world champions in high productivity.”