No flexibility in Germany yet

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Germany's energy regulator has dashed hopes for the time being of a flexible approach for wind and other green power generators seeking to opt out of the national renewable energy support mechanism and trade green power on the EEX electricity exchange instead. The Bundesnetzagentur (BNA) has ruled that a short term exit from the support system for a period of less than a month is incompatible with the current energy industry system. It admits it can do nothing to change the situation.

A new association of independent electricity generators, Interessengemeinschaft Unabhängiger Stromerzeuger, had been hoping that the requirement to opt out of the fixed price system for at least six months at a time could be eased. The group represents 3.3 GW of capacity.

The current mechanism in Germany for dealing with delivery of more or less wind power than scheduled the previous day was drawn up by BNA's predecessor, which was part of the established power system rather than an independent body. The mechanism requires transmission system operators (TSOs) to package wind with other generation into a firm power product for periods of a month at a time before it is passed on to electricity retailers.

If wind power is taken out of this system during the month and sold on the EEX when prices are high, the TSO is forced to procure the missing generation from the EEX at the same high price to make good the loss, adding costs to the system that are passed on to consumers, says BNA. Meantime, however, no actual power shortage occurred and thus no real cost. Only by insisting that the green generator checks out of the support system for at least a month at a time can this consequence be avoided, says BNA.

The renewable energy law, however, gives the federal environment ministry powers to tackle such a blatant problem, notes BNA. "But it has not yet made use of this power," it observes. So far the ministry, in proposals to amend the renewable energy law, has said that renewables players can switch in and out of the support system at six month intervals. The debate is not over, however, and submissions in response to the BNA's ruling are now being considered.

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