The voluntary bonus is intended to increase local acceptance of the energy transition, RWE said, adding that it will spend around €3 million in the coming year to give local authorities a financial stake in its wind farms.
The amendment to the Renewable Energy Resources Act, known as EEG, makes this possible, noted Katja Wünschel, CEO for onshore wind and solar Europe and Australia at RWE Renewables. Until the Section 6 amendment to the EEG, municipalities could only receive such a voluntary payment (capped at up to €0.02/kWh of the electricity sold and without any financial liability attached) for wind projects approved from January 2021. Municipalities with older wind farms could not.
“We will provide financial support to any municipality with an RWE wind farm or one of our ground-mounted solar plants as defined by the EEG 2023 from next year onwards," Wünschel said. "It is important to us not only to promote new RWE facilities and to intensively advance the expansion of renewables, but also to financially involve the municipalities of our existing plants. Relying on wind and sun should be worthwhile and thus increase the acceptance of the energy transition locally."
RWE said that municipalities with "powerful" plants will particularly benefit. "This creates an additional incentive to replace older units with modern ones," it said.
For example, RWE replaced 15 turbines at its 19.8MW Krusemark-Ellingen repowering wind farm in the state of Saxony-Anhalt with six modern, more powerful turbines in April this year, increasing total installed capacity from 15.7MW to 19.8MW. With this repowering, RWE said it was able to increase electricity production at the site by around 300%. This means that from 2023 the communities where these six turbines are located can now expect an income of around €120,000/year, instead of just €40,000 had the repowering not occurred .
She added: "If we give municipalities a financial share of the profits from renewable energy plants, everyone will benefit. The voluntary municipal levy can help to accelerate the energy transition.”
Municipalities can use the additional income to financially strengthen municipal facilities such as daycare centres, schools or fire brigades, RWE said.