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Germany

Germany

Wind group battles it out with utility -- Mistrust and confrontation

The uneasy relationship between Germany's independent wind power producers and the utility sector continues, most recently with more bitter exchanges between the national wind association, Bundesverband Windenergie (BWE), and east German utility e.dis Energie Nord. According to BWE, e.dis is blocking the development of more than 20 wind power stations in its area, which stretches from the Baltic coast to south of Berlin. E.dis retorts that with 540 MW feeding into its grid at the end of July, it is coping with the third largest volume of wind capacity of any utility in the country.

BWE is not impressed. "E.dis is disregarding contracts, failing to pay the payments laid down by the renewable energy law and levying arbitrary new charges," says the association's Hans Albers. The utility is also delaying grid connection and demanding "excessively high" charges for the service, says BWE. As a result a series of wind plant projects, representing an investment of some DEM 500 million, are stymied, according to the association.

This is not true, says Horst Jordan of e.dis. Between July 1999 and July 2000, 110 MW of new wind capacity was added to the e.dis grid, he continues. By the end of this year over 1000 wind turbines, amounting to 600 MW, will be running in the e.dis region. More than 110 MW is likely to be added in 2001, Jordan adds. In 1999, 5% of the 11.9 TWh of e.dis electricity sales stemmed from wind.

Jordan admits that the merger of four PreussenElektra dominated regional utilities to create e.dis Energie Nord at the start of 1999 was followed by a phase of re-organisation, but he stresses the utility kept disruption to customers to a minimum. He refutes BWE's claim that the number of court cases brought by wind station companies against the utility is growing. There have only been three so far, one of which has been settled, he says. "We operate within the law, the figures prove this and we have no reason to alter our behaviour."

According to Albers, however, e.dis has introduced a new charge to account for what it refers to as "grid losses" between the wind turbine and the transformer. Jordan says the change is not new. He declines to give details, however, of how the charge is calculated, though says the distance involved and the size of the connecting cable play a part. Another bone of contention is that wind turbine operators claim they are required to pay for grid connection, but that e.dis assumes ownership of the necessary equipment and then charges a rental fee for it. "E.dis is trying to reap back most of the DEM 0.178/kWh paid to wind turbine operators for their electricity," Albers says. The utility denies this is the case.

A meeting organised by BWE for September 28 to hammer out a solution failed to attract the utility, but did bring in wind turbine operators, investors, lawyers, politicians and representatives from the federal economics ministry. The meeting's conclusions were to be presented to the inaugural meeting of a new "clearing office" for grid connection controversies on October 26, says Jochen Twele of the BWE Berlin branch.

The clearing office has been founded after pressure from the wind lobby, says Twele. It involves the five operators of the German high voltage grid and utility association Vereinigung Deutscher Elektrizitaetswerke and renewables representatives, including BWE.

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