Lobbying already synchronised

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Though primarily concerned with the future of nuclear power and coal subsidies, Germany's "energy consensus" talks in 1994 served as a focus for the country's various renewable energy groups and helped them synchronise their political lobbying. The umbrella organisation which provides the forum for this work is the Bundesverband Erneuerbare Energie (BEE), the federal renewable energies association. Here, the wind, hydro, solar and biomass lobbies can exchange views before approaching government ministries, says its chairman Uwe Thomas Carstensen.

Since the success of the Electricity Feed Law (EFL) became evident -- and political attacks on its premium payments for renewable energy became steadily fiercer -- defence of the law has been the focus of most lobby work. Fighting for more spending on renewables programmes, at regional and federal level, has only been a background activity.

As its contribution to the consensus talks, BEE produced a market introduction programme for renewables designed to run for five to seven years. It aimed to provide an "integrated concept" through which 10,000 MW of renewables would become available and where the different renewable energies would complement each other -- especially in their availability. The 10,000 MW programme would cost DEM 2.5 billion, or DEM 0.5 billion a year over five years. New life may be breathed into the blueprint if environment minister Angela Merkel's promise of giving priority to renewables when new generating capacity is built is kept.

Federal spending on renewables does not officially focus on any particular technology. The emphasis is simply on reducing CO2 emissions by 25% by 2005 compared with levels in 2000. "Germany is the only country which has systematically oriented its energy research programme towards CO2 reduction," says the federal ministry for education, science, research and technology, the BWFT. "All forms of technology which have the potential to make a long term contribution to this aim must be made available."

Four main categories of research are identified for meeting the aim: improving energy efficiency in electricity generation, saving energy, use of renewable energies and use of nuclear power. The first two had budgets of DEM 81.4 million and DEM 153.2 million respectively in 1996. Renewable energies were awarded DEM 219.4 million and nuclear a total of DEM 633.7 million split into DEM 187.3 million for research DEM 275 million for decommissioning and DEM 171.4 million for nuclear fusion, or "long term options for energy supply."

Within the renewables budget for 1996, photovoltaics received almost twice as much as wind, at DEM 81.6 million compared with DEM 43 million for wind. Federal policy is that wind has grown out of the need for research support, apart from development of megawatt scale turbines. On photovoltaics, the ministry is reserved: "Electricity from solar should have a future in Germany, " it says, but prefers a step-by-step development than an expensive market stimulation programme." A programme to equip 100,000 rooftops with solar panels, for example, would simply be a subsidy, it says, ignoring arguments from the solar lobby about the potential economies of scale.

In contrast to federal policy, the land of Lower Saxony has taken a definite step in favour of photovoltaic and photo-thermal energy (solar collectors). Under the Electricity Feed Law, wind energy can operate more or less economically in good wind areas says Lower Saxony, arguing that in times when public money is in short supply it cannot justify more spending on wind. On the advice of the Lower Saxony Energy Agency, (run by major electricity utility Preussenelektra together with the regional government) it has shifted its allegiance to solar technologies. But should the EFL be amended to substantially disadvantage wind, then spending could revert back to wind again.

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