Payment for renewables generated electricity at a rate high enough to cover the full costs of generation became the main theme of the recent Aachen wind energy conference. The interest came following a ruling in the host state of North Rhine Westfalia (NRW) that utilities can hike electricity prices by 1% to pay for renewables (Windpower Monthly, July 1994).

When announcing NRW's renewables' pricing elasticity for utilities, NRW economy minister Günther Einert did not go as far as agreeing that wind and solar plant should receive payment to cover their full generation costs. But his pronouncement went a long way in that direction.

Commenting on the focus of the Aachen conference, Reginald Scholz from local wind lobby organisation WIND, explains: "The 200 or so visitors attending the two day event were anxious to find out what the change could bring for them and what position the different utilities were taking on the issue."

In the run-up to the conference a joint statement was issued by wind and solar associations pressing for the "Aachen Model" to be introduced nationwide for solar energy and inland wind development -- with a proviso that the price paid for wind in inland areas should be adjusted according to wind conditions.

The wind and solar support organisations point out that this is the only route to fulfilling the recommendations of a Parliamentary Commission report on Precautions to Protect the Earth's Atmosphere. This report, published in 1991, recommended that by the year 2005, renewables in Germany should supply 5% of primary energy consumption and 10-20% by the year 2050.

The current market stimulation framework in Germany has compressed the majority of wind developments into the thin coastal strip along the German north coast. The joint statement urged that the framework be changed to allow full utilisation of suitable inland sites, relieving the pressure on coastal areas.

The Aachen event addressed most of the major issues of German wind energy today, including choice of turbine location, the special problems of inland wind development, the state of development of 1 MW turbines and landscape protection.