Last year Germany's Federal Economy Ministry introduced a mini subsidy programme for wind farming in low and medium wind speed areas. The main purpose was to encourage installation of wind farms away from coastal areas where public acceptance is growing harder to obtain. The programme has been so successful that the ministry plans to extend it into 1995. The coming federal budget contains a four year wind programme.

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A mini subsidy programme for renewable energies, introduced in Germany last year by the Federal Economy Ministry, has proved so successful that the government has decided to extend it into 1995. But from now on subsidies will only be available for projects developed in low and medium wind speed areas.

The original limit on wind speed in 1994 of 5.5 m/s has been reduced to 5 m/s this year and will probably be cut again, once the new programme begins, to 4.5 m/s. The philosophy behind this rule is to encourage wind development away from coastal areas where public acceptance of the technology is growing thin. As under the 1994 programme, the subsidies available in the new programme are DEM 200 per kilowatt of installed capacity, with a cap of DEM 100,000 per single turbine. And only turbines of between 450 kW and 1 MW will be eligible for support. Projects receiving aid from other sources are excluded from this programme.

Already scarcely six weeks into the new year, 80 applications for wind project subsidies alone have been received by the programme administrator, Bundesamt für Wirtschaft of Eschborn. For the time being, though, the cash available is only enough for a thin scraping for each of the renewables in the programme, wind, solar collectors, photovoltaic, heat pumps, biomass and biogas. Only DEM 2.8 million has been made available for 1995 so far, compared with the already meagre DM 10 million in 1994.

However, there are good reasons to believe that an improvement is around the corner. The 1995 federal budget, which has yet to be passed by parliament, contains provisions for a four year renewables programme, with a budget of DEM 30 million in 1995 (including the DEM 2.8 million), DEM 30 million in 1996, DEM 20 million in 1997 and DEM 20 million in 1998. A special reservation for wind energy, 10% of each year's funds, will be made.

Introduction of the four year programme will be a relief to the wind sector which has been frustrated by the stop-go nature of economy ministry support so far. Rules governing support this year, for example, are impossible to follow. Applications must be submitted by the end of June, 1995, but to be eligible the project must not have been started. On the other hand, it has to be operating by mid October, just three and a half months later -- a nigh on impossible requirement to meet.

The logic of this scheduling is that no projects should be granted subsidy which would have been carried out anyway. But in practice a potential operator must have all the necessary bureaucratic licensing procedures well in hand in order to get the installations completed in time. The permitting authorities are resigned to, but not at all happy with this double-think, but accept it as a penalty which goes hand in hand with short term programmes with very limited finance.

Another bone of contention is that initially the ministry expected the programme to run for just one year, 1994, and failed to make provision for the publishing of details of projects supported with public money. The Data Protection Act now prevents the public from knowing what projects the money was spent on in 1994. Information available is restricted to the fact that ten wind projects were supported in 1994 involving one Vestas turbine, two from Enercon and seven Tacke machines. To ensure a better flow of information in the future, the Economy Ministry intends to include an evaluation study in the new four year programme which will require project operators receiving support to allow details to be published.

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