Tight schedule for German offshore liability law

Federal parliament may address cable issues in mid-December

It is unclear whether the German federal government’s efforts to tackle the electricity transmission liability issues that threaten to cripple the country’s emerging offshore wind industry will be successfully concluded by the end of 2012.

Earlier this year, the government published a draft law tackling offshore cable liability and designed to ensure grid connections are built to schedule. This should allow planned offshore wind capacity to proceed without delay. At the time, the expectation was that the law would enter into force at the beginning of 2013.

"Timing is very tight, but we need the new arrangement as fast as possible to provide clarity for the market," Andreas Wagner of Berlin-based Offshore Wind Foundation (Stiftung Offshore-Windenergie) told Windpower Offshore.

"The projects that have been put on hold recently are a warning signal. The component suppliers need a clear and reliable future framework for follow-up contracts. Once the law is enacted, offshore developers can adjust to it and start placing orders again," added Wagner.

Two offshore wind developers – EnBW and Dong - have put planned German offshore wind farms on hold this autumn, citing grid connection delays and cable liability issues that threaten the business case for their projects. Other developers, including Trianel and Windreich, have taken – or threatened – legal action against North Sea transmission system operator, TenneT.

Latest indications suggest the draft law may be considered by the federal parliament during the second week of December 2012. If so, a special, speeded-up procedure would be needed to ensure the law is passed by the parliament’s upper house before the end of the year. If this is missed, the next possible date for upper house approval is February 2013.

The situation is complicated because the draft legislation, entitled Third law to revise energy industry regulations, covers a number of tricky issues. These include controversial new arrangements that would require operators of conventional power stations to give advance warning of planned plant closures and creation of a system to prevent closures of plants needed to maintain electricity system stability during the period when Germany’s nuclear generation is phased out and wind and solar energy begin to play an ever-larger role in electricity supply.

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