Merkel presented a new energy policy to federal parliament which included ending the use of nuclear power by 2022 and doubling the share of renewables in electricity supply to 35%. This represents a modest 5% increase on the 30% aim set out in the renewable energy act of 2009.
Opposition parties applauded the re-instatement of the nuclear phase-out after Merkel's previous initiative last autumn that extended reactor lifetimes by an average 12 years, ostensibly to provide a "bridge" to the renewables era.
However, they criticised planned support for fossil-fuelled power stations, now described by the government as the new bridge.
Hans-Josef Fell, energy expert in the opposition Green Party, criticised Merkel and her government's draft renewable energy act, due to come into force in January 2012. In the draft, onshore wind conditions were worsened compared with the current renewables law, and even well-meaning improvements for offshore appeared to miss the mark.
The draft renewables act now sets out an annual decrease in onshore wind feed-in payments of 1.5%, somewhat milder than the previously proposed 2% reduction but still sharper than the current annual decrease of just 1%.
"It is paradoxical to slow expansion of onshore wind energy, the cheapest form of renewables with the greatest potential," says Hermann Albers, president of the German wind energy association Bundesverband Windenergie (BWE).
To facilitate offshore wind financing, the draft act proposes an option for higher guaranteed offshore wind feed-in payments of EUR0.19/kWh, rather than EUR0.15/kWh, but makes the higher rate payable for just eight years instead of 12.
Wind energy agency WAB complains that with Germany's risky offshore conditions far out to sea, the project rate of return under the new support framework of just 8.4% - although better than the 7.1% the current framework would achieve - is uncompetitive with rates of return on offshore wind elsewhere in Europe.
It recommends EUR0.195/kWh, payable over nine years, to achieve an average rate of return of 9.2% and ensure Germany achieves its offshore target of 10GW by 2020 compared with the 200MW it has currently installed.
Meanwhile, German state bank KfW announced a EUR5 billion credit programme for offshore wind (see p35).