Demanding return of lost income

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Wind farm operators in the north-west of Schleswig-Holstein are preparing a legal claim to seek damages for lost income against Germany's largest transmission network operator, E.ON Netz. The wind operators argue they are losing around 7% of their income because E.ON Netz has failed to expand the network as it is required to do under the renewable energy law. Instead, it disconnects wind plant from its network during periods of high output to prevent network overload -- without compensating the plant operators.

"Next year we'll be facing losses amounting to EUR 10,000 per megawatt of turbine capacity," says Hermann Albers of German wind energy association Bundesverband Windenergie (BWE). A 2004 amendment to Germany's law explicitly calls for immediate expansion of the network to meet the needs of renewable energy plant. Network operators are liable for damages if they do not comply. BWE accuses E.ON Netz of "refusing to strengthen the network over the last 15 years" despite an increasing need.

E.ON Netz rejects the accusation. "On the contrary, we have gone to a lot of trouble," says the company's Christian Schneller, noting it has been "in dialogue" with the Schleswig-Holstein and Lower Saxony state authorities on network expansion plans since 2000. It is also planning transmission cable temperature monitoring trials, beginning in the autumn, which it hopes will enable it to eventually accommodate more capacity (Windpower Monthly, June 2006).

E.ON Netz also points out that wind plant operators suffering curtailments have agreed to its generation management plan as a last resort during high wind periods "when security of supply can be guaranteed in no other way." The curtailments are to less than 10% of wind capacity in Schleswig-Holstein, claims the system operator, with less than 200 MW affected in early May when the winds were particularly strong and the network was being maintained.

Transmission system operators in Germany blame long permitting procedures and protests against new high voltage cable routes as grounds for the slow progress in network expansion. The federal government has responded with a draft law, currently being debated, to accelerate infrastructure projects including construction of electricity transmission cables. A clause to allow 10% of the required high voltage cable to be laid underground is included in the draft in the hope that this will reduce local protests.

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