Big industry splits on wind issue

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Efforts to undermine government policy on premium price payments for wind by the federation of German industry has prompted a revolt in its ranks. One of its members, the huge and powerful Verband Deutscher Maschinen und Anlagenbau (VDMA), has reacted with fury at the federation's arrogant publication of a document suggesting amendments to the Electricity Feed Law (EFL).

So angry is the VDMA at the publication of the amendments in its name, that it has insisted on the insertion of a loose-leaf correction into every issue of the "energy markets in transition" document, entitled "Energiemärkte im Umbruch." In it the industry federation, Bundesverband der Deutschen Industrie (BDI), proposed shifting the source of the EFL's premium payments for renewable energy from the utilities to the federal budget, or transforming support for renewables into a tax benefit system.

Under the BDI amendment, utilities would have to guarantee grid access to all renewable power, but would pay only the equivalent of the long term avoided costs. The additional money required to bring the level of payment up to the current EFL rates would be paid by the taxpayer.

The power plant division within the VDMA fears that electricity utilities will use the BDI proposal to boost their own campaign for wind payments to be made from federal or Länder budgets instead of from their own funds, secure in the knowledge that the purse strings of these budgets are already drawn tight. The division's managing director, Georg Berntsen, says that with no alternative financing available, the end of the EFL would mean the end of the wind energy sector and its associated 1000 or so jobs.

He points out that suggestions a year ago for utility payments for wind to be partly replaced with money from the federal budget rocked the market so badly that incoming orders for wind turbines fell by some 50%. He asks why the electricity sector, with profits running into billions, is unable to pay premium rates for wind in recognition of its advantages.

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