"The equality principle should apply. If customers have to pay for nuclear power -- with all its risks and problems -- as a matter of course, then they should also have to pay for clean power as a matter of course," argues BWE's Carlo Reeker. "It's a very dangerous development." He warns that while many consumers say they will sign up for such schemes, in practice few do. Far better than any green pricing system is a guaranteed minimum price for wind energy, contends Reeker.
He is supported in his stance by Jürgen Leuchtner of the Öko-Institut in Freiburg. "Experience in Switzerland and the Netherlands show a low participation of just 2-3% of customers. Green power tariffs just allow utilities to roll their responsibility for providing an acceptable energy supply on to customers and diverts attention from their own lack of foresight," says Leuchtner.
He points out that there is no need for green pricing as utilities are already allowed by law to raise electricity prices to pay for renewable energy, such as in Baden Württemberg. Here the economy ministry has nodded its approval of a 3% price hike so that the claimed extra cost of renewable energy is met by customers. According to Leuchtner this would add DEM 10 to annual electricity bills, no more than the price of two packs of cigarettes, while also saving on advertising green pricing programmes.
Protesting a green pricing scheme recently introduced by the utilities of Karlsruhe and Stuttgart (see main story), nature protection organisation Bund Für Umwelt und Naturschutz Deutschland (BUND) calls it "frivolous." BUND adds: "These two utilities, with millions of Deutschmark at their disposal for expansion and company buyouts, are shirking their responsibilities with this alms-for-the-poor campaign." Persuading a few gullible customers to pay extra for renewables lets the majority off the hook who can go laughing all the way to the light switch, argues BUND.
Communal utilities in Baden Württemberg have developed more sensible ways of supporting renewables, says BUND. They have agreed to pay a price which matches the actual cost of producing wind power. Bund asks why the Karlsruhe and Stuttgart utilities should be allowed to charge around DEM 0.30/kWh for renewable power when they only pay DEM 0.1715/kWh for it under federal law.