State aid: Commission approves €1.1 billion German scheme 24/02/23

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State aid: Commission approves €1.1 billion German scheme to support rail transport operators using electric traction


The European Commission has approved, under EU State aid rules, a €1.1 billion German scheme to compensate rail transport operators using electric traction in the context of the recent spike in electricity prices. The measure will contribute to ensuring that the rail sector remains competitive while preserving the environmental performance of electric rail, in line with the objectives of the Commission's Sustainable and Smart Mobility Strategy and of the European Green Deal.

The German measure

Germany notified the Commission of its intention to introduce a €1.1 billion scheme to support freight and passenger rail transport operators using electric traction. The aim of the scheme is to help rail operators cover part of the additional electricity cost experienced due to the exceptional increases in electricity prices in the context of Russia's war against Ukraine. In doing so, the scheme aims to support and preserve the modal shift from road to rail transport using electric traction, thus promoting a greener means of transport.

Under the scheme, the aid will take the form of monthly reductions in the freight and passenger rail transport operators' electricity bills. Electricity suppliers will then be reimbursed by the German state only for the economic support provided to the rail transport operators.

The scheme will cover electricity consumed between 1 January 2023 and 31 December 2023.

The Commission's assessment

The Commission assessed the measure under EU State aid rules, in particular Article 93 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (‘TFEU') on transport coordination, and the 2008 Guidelines on State aid for railway undertakings. The Commission found that:

  • The scheme is beneficial for the environment and mobility, as it supports rail transport using electric traction, which is less polluting than road transport and decreases road congestion.
  • The measure is necessary and appropriate to achieve the objective pursued, namely to support and preserve the modal shift from road to rail transport using electric traction in a situation of exceptionally high electricity cost.
  • The scheme is proportionate, i.e. limited to the minimum necessary, as the aid remains below the maximum thresholds set out in the Railway Guidelines.
  • The aid is limited to reducing the competitive disadvantages faced by rail transport using electric traction compared to road transport. Therefore, the measure will not have undue negative effects on competition and trade in the EU.

On this basis, the Commission approved the German scheme under EU State aid rules.


Article 93 of the TFEU enables Member States to support the coordination of transport including for urban transport. The 2008 Railway Guidelines set out the conditions under which aid to railway companies may be considered compatible with the internal market and State aid rules, in particular on the basis of Article 93 TFEU.

The measure will be managed by the Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Climate Action with the assistance of electricity suppliers. The national legal basis of the measure is the Electricity Price Brake Law. The Commission has already approved aid granted under the same German legal basis (the Electricity Price Brake Law) to other sectors for increased electricity prices under the Temporary Crisis Framework on 21 December 2022.

Today's decision follows the Commission's previous approvals under the Railway Guidelines of other German schemes currently in force, which provide support to both rail passenger and freight operators (SA. 50395SA.64549) as well as schemes supporting specifically rail freight operators (SA.51956SA.58046).

For More Information

The non-confidential version of the decision will be made available under the case number SA.105120 in the State aid case register on the Commission's competition website once any confidentiality issues have been resolved. New publications of State aid decisions on the internet and in the Official Journal are listed in the Competition Weekly e-News.



This €1.1 billion scheme will enable Germany to support electric traction, which is a more environmental-friendly mode of rail transport compared to diesel-fuelled vehicles. It will help Germany meet its European Green Deal objectives, while reducing the burden of rising electricity costs for transport operators, to the benefit of passengers and freight customers.

Margrethe Vestager, Executive Vice-President in charge of competition policy - 24/02/2023