Wind to play big role in nuclear-free future

GERMANY: Wind power will be at the heart of Germany's plan to phase out nuclear and boost use of renewables, an internal government document has revealed.

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Dated April 7, 2011, the document is called "A six-point plan for an accelerated change of energy course in Germany".

The first section discusses accelerating renewables growth and is almost entirely devoted to wind.

Issues listed include the amendment of planning laws, so new areas can be earmarked for onshore wind and repowering of older projects. It calls for the removal of obstacles such as wind turbine height restrictions. The implementation of a EUR5 billion credit programme for offshore wind development is also mentioned, along with the need for a master plan for offshore wind farm connections to the onshore transmission network. Incentives for improved market integration, including the creation of systems with electricity storage features that enable the supply of electricity, are also discussed.

Many of the points are not new and were first made in a ten-point plan for implementation by the end of 2011, released alongside the government's Energy Concept 2050 last autumn.

"There is no need for new invention," pointed out Germany's federal environment minister Norbert Rottgen on April 15. "We simply have to put the existing energy concept into practice, mainly in connection with onshore and offshore wind."

The move away from nuclear power has broad political support. Wind and other renewable-energy associations, along with environmental-organisations such as Greenpeace and Deutsche Umwelthilfe, have already worked up industry road maps. These conclude that, with a favourable support framework, Germany can safely be free of nuclear energy by as early as 2017.

Key issues are whether the changes will result in a hike in energy prices and whether security of energy supply and stability of electricity transmission networks might be jeopardised.

A recent report from energy regulator Bundesnetzagentur notes that the three-month closure of seven reactors - closed in the wake of the nuclear problems in Japan after the March earthquake - with another offline for maintenance, has not resulted in a dramatic power-price increase. In total, 9.7GW was taken off the grid, yet there has been no acute danger of blackouts.

In high-wind periods, transmission network operators may have to intervene in the market more often than previously to ensure network stability, it adds.

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