The costs of balancing intermittent wind power are blamed by one of Germany's major power companies for a sharp hike in high voltage network usage charges. Vattenfall Europe announced last month that higher charges from next year were "unavoidable." No decision on the size of the hike has been made. "The reason behind the increase lies, in particular, in the over proportional rise in expenditure in balancing the highly varying feed-in of wind generation," claims the company. Changes to Germany's renewable energy law, which spread the cost of balancing wind over all network operators, not just those at the point of grid access, will be taken into account in setting the new charges, says Vattenfall. Peter Ahmels of the German wind association is sceptical about Vattenfall's need to raise network usage charges "by more than 20%." With balancing costs more widely spread, Vattenfall "should be reducing not increasing its charges," he says. The Bundesverband Neuer Energieanbieter, representing independent electricity suppliers, says Vattenfall is taking advantage of the absence of an independent market regulator. It calls for swift legislation to put a cap on prices until a regulator is put in place.