Germany demands utilities continue renewables funding after payments halt

Germany's finance ministry has demanded utilities continue to pay into a renewable energy fund after they halted payments following a row over nuclear plant shutdown plans.
RWE, E.ON, Vattenfall and EnBW have halted contributions into the renewable energy fund after the government ordered a three-month shutdown of nuclear plants following the Japan disaster.
The fund was set up after Chancellor Angela Merkel's centre-right coalition agreed last year to extend the life of seven nuclear power plants by an average of 12 years. The fund will total EUR1.4bn ($2.02bn) by 2016.
Reuters reports Munich daily Sueddeutsche Zeitung as saying that Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble is pressuring the industry to continue its monthly contributions, saying they were contractually obliged to pay even during the shutdown.
Merkel's government ordered the shutdown of more than 7 GW of nuclear capacity on March 15 until at least June after a tsunami crippled Japanese nuclear plants. Germany's previous plan called for domestic nuclear power to be switched off by about 2022.
"The unilateral decision of the nuclear power companies to quit paying into the fund implies a complete abandonment of the nuclear power extension," Environment Minister Norbert Roettgen told the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung on Monday.
"The contributions are advance payments on additional profits from the nuclear energy extension," the minister added.
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