Solar favoured, Ten thousandth customer

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A family living in Neuss has become the ten thousandth customer to sign up for a green pricing scheme run by utility RWE Energie, Germany's largest power company. Gerhard Graf is to pay an "environment tariff" to receive electricity from a renewable source in a scheme introduced by RWE in 1996.

Customers who are not in a position to own shares in a renewable energy facility, but still wish to use green power, may opt to buy it through the utility at a premium price. Nearly 0.4% of all RWE Energie's customers are now voluntarily paying an extra DEM 0.2/kWh for more than 1.8 million kWh generated from renewable resources. The Essen based utility has pledged to match the sum being paid under the green tariff to build more renewable plant.

Five photovoltaic plant financed under the RWE green pricing programme are already operating. The sixth "Umwelt tariff " project is a 500 kW Enercon wind turbine installed in May at Kirf in the Eifel area. It joins another E40 at the same site, installed in June 1994 as a research and demonstration project.

The new E40 has been erected on a site previously occupied by a Heidelberg Motor 300 kW vertical axis machine, dismantled in February. The E40 is expected to deliver 750,000 kWh a year, or the equivalent demand of 3250 "Umwelt tariff" customers. No further wind projects are planned at present.

Photovoltaic plant are favoured by RWE Energie, says a spokesman, because they can be built on utility property such as transformer plant sites. This makes planning procedures much simpler than for either new wind or hydro plant. "RWE Energie has taken the lead in Germany with its environment tariff" , Rudolf Schwan from the utility says. "It is pleasing that with the involvement of 10,000 customers, our support programme has found enormous acceptance. At the same time, our customers are using the possibility of directly influencing investment decisions at RWE Energie." This area of investment influence is minuscule, however. It compares with RWE spending last year of amounting to a huge DEM 2.8 billion.

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