* Germany overhauling renewable energy law
* Exemptions to stay in some sectors
By Markus Wacket
BERLIN, March 17 (Reuters) - The European Commission and the
German government have reached broad agreement over disputed
exemptions to green energy charges that Berlin grants heavy
industry, German industry and government sources said on Monday.
A deal would signal the end to a dispute that has unsettled
energy-intensive industries in Europe's largest economy and left
Germany facing a probe by Brussels over whether the exemptions
gave such companies an unfair advantage.
"We are in agreement on nearly all points," a government
representative told Reuters.
The sources said industries exempt from green power support
costs would be limited to export-sensitive sectors such as
aluminium, chemicals, paper and steel. Large firms with more
than 100 gigawatt-hours (GWh) of annual electricity usage would
also be almost completely exempt from such costs.
The Commission - the EU executive - has said Germany's
industrial discounts on green surcharges, worth 5.1 billion
euros ($7.1 billion) in 2014, might sometimes be justified to
keep energy-intensive firms in Europe, but it had concerns.
Around 2,000 German heavy energy users such as BASF
and ThyssenKrupp have been exempt from a
surcharge to pay for Germany to quit nuclear power and move to
green energy. Ordinary consumers have to pay the levy.
These firms face the possibility of having to pay back the
discounts should the EU rule them unfair. The sources said there
was no agreement yet over whether there would be a repayment -
which would be a deep blow for the firms concerned.
Germany is undergoing Europe's deepest energy transformation
as it exits nuclear power. The biggest task facing the new
government is a reform of the law on renewable energy and how to
pay for the switch.
Chancellor Angela Merkel's cabinet wants to agree the new
rules on subsidies for renewable energy and on industry
discounts from the green energy surcharge in April, in parallel
with an EU decision on new guidelines on green subsidies.
The new German rules were mostly in line with the EU
guidelines, according to a draft of the document.
($1 = 0.7181 euros)
(Reporting by Markus Wacket; Writing by Alexandra Hudson, Vera
Eckert and Sarah Marsh; Editing by Dale Hudson)