Expert input on renewables

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Six discussion panels have been set up in Germany to investigate specific aspects of rational energy use, energy saving and renewables. The panels are an initiative of the federal economy ministry and follow on the heels of Germany's abortive energy consensus talks. These ground to a halt in October when it became clear that no national agreement could be found on the future of nuclear power.

Once Germany's general election in October this year is out of the way, the energy consensus talks will probably be resumed. In the meantime the economy ministry is keeping the ball rolling in a series of working groups, starting with a report presented last year by the energy consensus sub-working group on renewables, energy saving and rational energy.

The economy ministry has invited a broader range of participants to take part than those involved in the energy consensus talks. This time, the gas and oil industries as well as the Federation of Building Trades are sending emissaries to join the ranks of experts from the electricity industry, trade unions, industrial power industry and local government authorities. Representatives of political parties are not included. Environment groups have been invited, but first wish to establish the ministry's aims before deciding whether to participate.

The ministry says the aim is to draw up expert "neutral" reports which make recommendations to all political parties. Of the many themes to be discussed, those with a direct bearing on wind are: an estimation of the economic potential of renewables in Germany; and measures to support and promote the use of renewables. The other themes are: expansion of district heating and combined heat and power systems; efficiency in power plant electricity generation; potential for energy saving through Least Cost Planning and Demand Side Management; third party financing, also called contracting. This looks at energy saving projects financed by credit institutes where the costs are financed from the savings made on fuel expenditure.

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