More fuel on the fire

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The Lower Saxony economy ministry is also developing an amendment to Germany's Electricity Feed Law (EFL) to be discussed with federal economy ministry officials. The blueprint deals with two key issues: it recommends that premium payments for wind be spread throughout Germany and not fall entirely on utilities in windy areas; and it demands clear rules for offshore turbines which would not come under EFL rules in the current legislation. Furthermore, the blueprint suggests a reduction of payments for wind power generated at lucrative windy sites "in good time."

Lower Saxony officials are tight lipped over further details contained in the blueprint, but press reports suggest that a national grid-costs levy to raise funds for the EFL premium payments is one of the elements of the Lower Saxony plan.

"The idea of cutting EFL payments is likely to be met with opposition and renewed accusations that the ministry is pandering to the desires of giant utility Preussenelektra," comments Ralf Bischof from wind association BWE. "Why Lower Saxony is proposing cuts in EFL rates in good wind areas when the recent ISET study [see separate story] shows that only a tiny 4% of all 600 kW turbines managed operated economically in 1996 is puzzling." A year ago, Lower Saxony's suggestion that money from federal coffers be used to meet bills for premium payments for clean energy -- with utilities only paying a rate equivalent to their avoided fuel purchase costs -- was met with howls of dissent.

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