Schleswag utility renews attack

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Another skirmish in the battle over Germany's Electricity Feed Law (EFL) is underway, with utility Schleswag taking a small wind plant operator to court over payments made by the utility under the EFL for electricity produced by the plant. Schleswag's initiative appears to be one step in a carefully charted strategy of attack.

Schleswag argues that the court's decision will be "an important step along the path to giving wind plant operators the legal security which they urgently need." This sudden role as wind's guardian angel could also be seen as a cover for the utility's real intentions.

Schleswag claims the EFL is unconstitutional because it impairs the commercial activities of the utility and "contradicts the principle of equal treatment anchored in the Constitution . . . Utilities are penalised merely as a consequence of climatic conditions." "Furthermore, the EFL is illegal, claims Schleswag, because direct state subsidies for wind would achieve the same ends without recourse to law.

The inland wind energy association, Interessenverband Windkraft Binnenland (IWB), reports that the court case is over the grand sum of DEM 878. Schleswag is claiming this back as the difference between what it had to pay the operator under the EFL in a particular month and what it thinks the electricity was actually worth.

The dispute is being dealt with by the court at Plön, even though the court of Rendsburg would normally be expected to be responsible as this is closest to the headquarters of both Schleswag and the wind company, Binnenland Wind (BW) of Hanerau-Hademarschen. This choice of court, the fact that BW employs an ex-Schleswag employee, and the rejection by BW of offers of help from other wind operators, has led the federal association for renewable energies, BEE, to suspect that the whole episode has been carefully orchestrated.

Indeed, the case may be running as planned. The court of Plön promptly put it on ice in order to first get an opinion from the Federal Constitutional Court on the legality of the EFL. Ironically, this high court has already rejected a similar appeal from the Karlsruhe Court (Windpower Monthly June 1996). Now it has called for opinions from the federal and lænder governments, says IWB, adding that Schleswig Holstein has replied promptly with a statement supporting the EFL.

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