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Germany to nationalize gas distributor Uniper to avoid energy crisis

Pipelines at the Etzel ESE natural gas storage facility, operated by Uniper Energy Storage GmbH, a unit of Uniper SE, in Etzel, Germany. (Credit: Krisztian Bocsi/Bloomberg/Getty Images)

Germany has announced it will nationalize gas giant Uniper as part of an 8 billion euro ($7.9 billion) plan to stem looming energy supply shortages due to the war in Ukraine.

Europe has been affected by the rise in gas prices due to the Russian invasion and the stoppage of gas flows to the continent.

The German state will own about 99% of Uniper and 8% of its Finnish parent company Fortum, Economy Minister Robert Habeck said in Berlin on Wednesday.

Uniper, Germany’s largest gas importer, handles 40% of the country’s gas supply and is crucial for large companies and private consumers.

In July, Foreign Minister Olaf Scholz announced that the government would step in to rescue Uniper with a package of up to 15 billion euros ($15.3 billion), after it was left bankrupt by months of gas cuts from Russia and rising market prices. .

But Habeck said the situation had “deteriorated significantly” after Russia suspended gas supplies to Europe via the Nord Stream 1 pipeline indefinitely on September 1, citing an oil spill.

Russian gas has had to be replaced by expensive alternatives, which has led to higher bills for consumers.

Habeck said a gas tax would be charged to German customers from October 1, telling reporters: “We have found a legally secure way to impose a gas tax.”

Although gas production via Nord Stream 1 is suspended, Germany’s gas reserves are filled to more than 90% of capacity, European storage provider GIE AGSI+ said on its website.

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