The E.dis network spans the states of Brandenburg and Mecklenburg-Vorpommern. Renewables electricity, mainly wind, accounted for 22% of sales in its area last year. With these parameters, "We feel we've done our bit towards Germany's renewables target to supply 20% of national electricity by 2020," says the company's Horst Jordan.
E.dis, majority owned by energy group E.on, claims its network capacity in the rural and undeveloped regions of Uckermark, Prignitz and Teltow-Fläming in the state of Brandenburg is exhausted, although elsewhere on its grid there is no congestion. But wind developers believe E.dis is exaggerating its grid problems-when legal pressure has been applied, the company has given and connected projects. Developers, including MVV Energy subsidiary Eternegy, are even having to resort to legal action to obtain basic data for network applications, they claim.
The problems have hit not only large and small wind station projects but also biogas and tiny rooftop photovoltaic plant proposals. "We have advised or represented dozens of companies in disputes with E.dis over the last few years," says Ludger Gordalla of legal firm Luther Willma Buchholz Baierlein Nierer (LWBBN) in Berlin. E.dis says its network is "full" but declines to back that claim with a detailed report. When pressured, it releases data for individual cases only, states LWBBN.
It points out that by law, network operators must connect all renewables generation, even if the operator needs to upgrade the network, providing the cost is "reasonable." In other words, the grid operator is obliged to upgrade its grid without delay if that is necessary to for connecting renewables generation. What "reasonable" cost means has yet to be interpreted by the courts, points out LWBBN.
Planning and construction of new transmission cables can take several years so E.dis can play for time. A dispute over network access may take many months and an ensuing court case would require another one to two years. Many project developers are reluctant to shoulder the costs of a long-drawn out legal battle, especially as the legally fixed premium payments for wind generated electricity decline each year, says LWBBN.
"We are investigating whether and what new network connections are necessary," says Jordan, but he is unable to state a target date for when the results will be made public. Jordan reveals, though, that E.dis is considering construction of 70 kilometres of new high voltage cable in the Teltow-Fläming region. Even if E.dis goes ahead with it, permitting could take at least four to five years, he warns.
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Unlike its parent, E.on, E.dis seems reluctant to seek creative solutions. Back in 2001 in Schleswig-Holstein, E.on Netz began signing voluntary load management deals with wind companies operating a combined 600 MW of plant, or about 25% of the 2200 MW of wind capacity connected to its network in the state. Without such arrangements, "We can't really connect more stations in certain areas, we are into the danger zone," says E.on Netz.
The company has divided Schleswig-Holstein into ten zones in each of which a maximum feed-in capacity is defined depending on load conditions. If the threshold is approached, E.on Netz sends request signals from its load management centre in Lübeck to co-operating wind station operators to reduce their output.
"E.dis does not have such arrangements because they contradict the law and would place the company in an uncertain legal framework," says Jordan. "It's the duty of the legislator to allow such network management deals." Nonetheless, E.dis is considering such agreements for solar plant, and Jordan admits "the legal situation for wind would be similar." But wind stations are much larger than photovoltaic plant, he argues.
Amendments to the Renewable Energy Law, due to come into force in June (previous story), specifically allow load management co-operation as practiced by E.on Netz.