Germany - Policy revision casts shadow over growth

GERMANY: As the German government prepares a major revision of the Renewable Energy Act, wind developers are hurrying to complete all permitted projects before the end of the year to capture the higher support payments currently provided.

Boom year… Germany could see record installations in 2014, driven by policy concerns (pic: Thorsten Berndt)
Boom year… Germany could see record installations in 2014, driven by policy concerns (pic: Thorsten Berndt)

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A new record is possible this year, after 2013 installations of 3.24GW just failed to beat the previous record of 3.25GW set in 2002.

In 2014, 2.5-3GW could be added onshore, predicts the German wind federation BWE and the power systems division of engineering federation VDMA. Offshore, about 1.5GW of commissioned capacity is expected in 2014, followed by 1GW in 2015, according to the two organisations. Thus up to 4.5GW of new wind could be commissioned in Germany in 2014.

After adding 3GW, the onshore fleet stood at 33.73GW at end-2013. The 240MW capacity addition offshore raised the fleet size at sea to 520MW, meaning Germany's total wind resource at the end of 2013 amounted to 34.25GW.

Small projects

The main suppliers in 2013 were Enercon, with around 1.48GW or some 49% of the new capacity installed onshore, followed by Vestas with 616MW or 21%, and Repower (now Senvion) and Nordex accounting for 486MW and 251MW, 16% and 8.4% respectively. Almost all onshore wind projects were smaller than 20MW.

Offshore projects are larger. The remaining 48 Bard 5MW turbines were commissioned at the 400MW Bard Offshore 1 project, owned by Unicredit bank, in 2013.

The installation of another 103 turbines with a total of 394.6MW at three offshore projects was also completed last year but had yet to be connected to the grid, Deutsche Windguard reported in its summary of progress in 2013, published in January.

The rate of onshore wind installations in Germany has been increasing over the past three years, the 2,998MW of 2013 following 2,407MW in 2012 and 1,807MW in 2011. Offshore, progress has been more patchy, last year's 240MW of new capacity following 80MW in 2012 and 200MW in 2011.

Onshore caps

As part of the Renewable Energy Act revision under way in 2014, the German government has set a cap on offshore wind development to 2020 of 6.5GW, followed by 15GW by 2030. Annual onshore wind expansion is supposed to remain in a 2.4-2.6GW corridor but whether repowering projects are included in this limit is not yet clear.

Repowering, often with up to a tripling of the previous wind farm's capacity will become increasingly common as Germany's first generation of wind turbines start passing the 15-year mark.

Whether the planned onshore wind corridor will be accepted by the Bundesrat, Germany's upper house representing the federal states, remains to be seen. Since the Fukushima nuclear disaster in March 2011 and the decision to phase out nuclear power by 2022, the states have focused on earmarking areas for onshore wind-energy use in inland middle and southern Germany.

Current political backdrop New conservative-social democrat grand coalition government elected in September 2013 is revising the renewables policy

High point of 2013 New onshore installations reached 3GW, second highest after 2002 onshore installations of 3.25GW

Low point Conservative-liberal political "Brake on electricity prices" campaign in February 2013 caused huge market uncertainty for future investment

Key influencers Sigmar Gabriel, new social-democrat economy minister, responsible for renewable-energy policy

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