German environment minister proposes limit on support for wind

GERMANY: A cap on the total amount of wind-energy capacity that should be granted support is one of the proposals aired by Germany's federal environment minister, Peter Altmaier, in a discussion paper on the future of renewables support, published in October.

Germany's current Renewable Energy Act is aimed at quantity and has no impact on quality in terms of what time of day generation takes place, the geographical distribution, co-ordination with conventional generation and expansion of the transmission networks, he said.

Altmaier proposed that explicit expansion targets for wind and renewables of around 40% by 2020 and 80% in 2050 should be fixed by law to remove any doubt about the government's will to achieve the country's desired transition to renewables.

He added that achieving marketability for renewables should become an official aim to make it clear that renewables should not remain permanently reliant on subsidies.

Far from reality

Altmaier's ideas were sharply criticised by the wind and renewables sector for failing to address reality. The proposed limit on wind support is a totally unsuitable instrument that in no way takes into account the practicalities of developing and financing wind projects, complained Hermann Albers, president of Germany's wind energy association BWE. "It can take more than five years from the time a project is initiated to implementation," he said. "A company that does not know if there is an economic basis for a project by the time it is completed won't be able to develop wind projects."

Legislating for fixed targets also set alarm bells ringing. Annual expansion would be significantly below today's growth rates, and fixed targets of 40% in 2020 and 80% in 2050 would amount to state protection for the share of energy to come from fossil fuel and nuclear sources, pointed out Hans-Josef Fell, the Green Party's energy expert.

The whole energy market design has to be changed if wind and renewables are to be successfully integrated into a market with fossil-fuelled generation, said Germany's association of communal utilities VKU. A subsidy to encourage trading of wind power is already available.

"The minister's aim for debate with market players is principally the right path, but as he has made only suggestions that will brake and even shrink the renewables sector, he can't expect too much acceptance for his ideas," concluded Fell.

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