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Germany

Germany

Treading water

Despite adamant declarations from Bonn of continuing political support for clean energies, the architects of the forthcoming free market legislation seem far too willing to let utilities and big business run the show. In the process, Independent Power Producers are being ignored, along with declared government policy on use of more renewables. If this lopsided attempt at liberalisation continues, wind energy can whistle for its market.

It would seem that political and legal support for Germany's renewables support mechanism, the Electricity Feed Law (EFL), is holding firm. Utility efforts to manoeuvre through supposed loopholes in the law have been thwarted by the courts yet again. This time it was utility Schleswag which had its knuckles rapped on two separate counts (page 21).

Schleswag's shenanigans were just the latest in a series of attacks by German utilities on the legal basis of the EFL, attacks which have advanced as far as the Federal Constitutional Court and even penetrated the European Commission in Brussels. So far, though, the EFL has proved to be a solid bulwark against this non-stop utility barrage. The most recent court verdicts are being appealed to a higher court, but the indications are that the legal system is backing the politicians and their pro renewable politics, and not the utility establishment.

Meanwhile, legislative wheels are in motion to dismantle the monopolistic framework of Germany's electricity sector, with the aim of freeing the market and allowing third party access to the grid. Whether the EFL will be the right mechanism for giving renewables a fair chance in the new competitive market is open to debate. But some form of market protection will be required, given that the all-powerful utility sector is even being allowed to thrash out the vital issue of grid access directly with big industry, sidelining Independent Power Producers (IPPs) such as wind turbine owners.

Despite adamant declarations from Bonn of continuing political support for clean energies, the architects of the forthcoming free market legislation seem far too willing to let utilities and big business run the show. In the process, IPPs are being ignored, along with declared government policy on use of more renewables. If this lopsided attempt at liberalisation continues, wind energy can whistle for its market.

Until such time as wind is given its rightful place at the negotiating table, its proponents have no choice but to insist on the retention of the EFL. Fitting a legal mechanism designed for a non competitive electricity system into a free market is not likely to be an unqualified success. But until it is proved that utilities and big industry are capable, on their own, of bringing about a fair market, shoring up the EFL defences is the order of the day.

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