Wind bank opens for national business -- Net metering with a twist

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In a nationwide publicity campaign, Sweden's union of wind power co-operatives is marketing shares in a "wind bank" which will provide 1000 kWh of wind power at a producton price of just SEK 0.018/kWh for each investment of SEK 4000. The savings on the standard production price of electricity, once sales tax and distribution charges are accounted for, amount to about SEK 0.15/kWh, a return of around 4%. Co-operative members may not own shares which provide more power than they can consume.

The publicity campaign, sponsored by wind turbine manufacturers Vestas, Enercon and NEG Micon, is offering the shares to private and corporate consumers. Commenting on the low wind price of SEK 0.018, co-operative board Member Matts Envall says: "We could probably sell for zero, but I don't think the politicians would like it." The money put into the wind bank will be used to develop more wind plant.

The wind turbine ownership model is similar to that previously employed in Denmark under government regulations, where a co-operative shareholder bought 1000 kWh of electricity a year by investing DKK 4000 in a wind turbine. Unlike the commercial Swedish model, however, where consumers offset their annual electricity consumption with cut-price wind power, Danish investors sold the 1000 kWh back to the grid.

The Swedish model allows the co-operative association to sell wind power directly to its members rather than first to a utility. Shareholders can withdraw their SEK 4000 investment at any time, but do not receive interest on it. The investment, however, effectively freezes the price of electricity for each investor. If electricity prices rise beyond the current low rates in Sweden, the returns for shareholders could increase to 10-20%.

Trial run

The "wind bank" model for co-operatives was tried out locally last year by Falkenberg Energi (Windpower Monthly, July 1999). It had spotted the business opening when Sweden liberalised its electricity market. Ordinarily, a company or association selling power directly to customers must assume economic responsibility for balancing supply and demand. It is this role that Falkenberg has shouldered on behalf of the wind co-operative association, for a charge of about SEK 0.005/kWh. At times when demand for wind power is greater than supply, Falkenberg must buy in power from other generators. But when supply is surplus to demand on a windy day, the utility can trade the excess at a profit. It also gains access to new consumers the length and breadth of Sweden who, to participate, must become Falkenberg customers. Envall says it is the first such national "wind banking" scheme open to all consumers.

According to the Swedish Wind power Association, more than 9000 Swedish households and businesses are already consumers of wind power. Under existing co-operative ownership deals, 50 local wind co-ops have so far invested an average SEK 17,500 per member in more than 60 wind installations with a combined capacity of around 30 MW. The Falkenberg model is expected to double this activity.

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