Germany

Germany

DARK CURRENT AT BUSY CONGRESS

Renergie '95 was the second renewables energy congress to be held in Hamm, Germany. The North Rhine Westfalia economic minister was pleased with the state's renewable energy support programme, REN, which has supported nearly 15,000 projects with a total of DEM 200 million since 1988. But the entire congress had an undertow of concern and uncertainty regarding the utilities' attack on Germany's Electricity Feed Law (EFL) and its possible impact on future legislation in Germany.

North Rhine Westfalia's economics minister Günther Einert gave his own government a pat on the back at Renergie '95, the second renewables energy congress to be held in Hamm. He congratulated the state for its renewable energy support programme, REN, which has supported nearly 15,000 projects with a total of DEM 200 million since 1988, corresponding to a total investment in renewable energy plant of around DEM 1 billion. To mark the success of the programme, Einert presented a tourist map of renewable projects in North Rhine Westfalia (NRW), although wind turbines are far from dominant on it. So far wind energy has only a modest share of the renewables cake -- just 403 turbines are installed in NRW.

Einert went on to report that although utilities in the state are allowed to raise their electricity prices by up to 1% in order to pay for the extra cost of using renewable energy, only a handful have done so. Only Stawag and Aseag in Aachen and a municipal utility, Stadtwerke Remscheid, have agreed to pay rates higher than the minimum payments for renewables laid down in Germany's Electricity Feed Law (EFL). The permission to raise prices dates from June 1, 1994.

Following Einert's generally optimistic words, uncertainty over the outcome of the utility attack on the EFL (see story page 17) ran as a dark undercurrent throughout the Renergie '95 event. All the renewable technologies, from wind and solar through to hydro and biogas are all reliant on the EFL for their markets. This insecurity is likely to remain until the German utilities accept that the EFL is here to stay and withdraw their statement that payments being made under the EFL are only provisional.

Utility representatives, mostly from renewables departments, had to bear the brunt of a steady flow of ill will from the owners of renewables plant. But as Michael Sommerstange from RWE Energie pointed out, it is not his department which is against renewables. The real antipathy towards clean energies runs in the upper echelons of utility management.

Attendance at the renewables congress was up on last year, particularly in the wind sessions where a 50% increase was registered, from some 400 tickets sold in 1994 to 600 this year. The solar sessions were attended by some 300 people after 200 last year. Hydro and biogas were introduced as new sectors and attracted 80 and 40 visitors respectively where the speakers were expecting only 15 and 20 at most.

Nearly 7000 people visited the exhibition where 87 companies demonstrated their products, compared with 6500 visitors in 1994. The majority of visitors toured the stands on Saturday and Sunday, partly due to the policy of the organisers, Öko-Zentrum to charge a slightly lower entrance price at the weekend to encourage visits from the broader public. This strategy paid off. While attendance was extremely thin on the two weekdays, at the weekend the exhibition was overrun with families and students eager to see the latest on offer from the renewables sector.

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