The german policy blueprint

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Mobilisation of private initiatives and private capital, coupled with the creation of new markets, should be the key points of an EU strategy for renewables. So urges the German wind association, the Bundesverband Windenergie (BWE), in its comments on the European Commission's policy paper (see main story). Tackling problems like discrimination of small, independent generators by the oligopoly structures of the traditional energy sector will need a clear legal and political framework, stresses BWE.

The association favours policies aimed at creating a long term, predictable demand for renewable energy to allow for the development of a market large enough for automated mass production of wind turbines by several competing manufacturers. Only then will a serious reduction in cost be possible, it says. BWE recommends broad and permanent market programmes within a suitable legal framework. The environmental benefit of wind should also be taken into account in electricity pricing policy, it points out.

The BWE is overwhelmingly in favour of a fixed price arrangement to achieve political aims for renewable energies, pointing to the positive experience in Germany and Denmark with such systems. Here wind power installations amounted to 1545 MW and 835 MW, respectively, at the end of 1996, compared with just 273 MW and 6 MW in Britain and France, where regulations demand that a fixed proportion of electricity supply come from renewables sources within a competitive market.

In the long term, energy supply must be based on renewable energy sources and not fossil fuels, BWE stresses. If not, disputes over dwindling oil, gas and coal resources will endanger the stability of whole regions of the world.

BWE concurs with the EC's stance that national energy policy, rather than geography or climate, has the strongest influence on the expansion of renewables. If the political will existed, the BWE says that by 2020, 200,000 MW of wind (or about 20% of current electricity consumption) could be integrated into the European supply system without any significant technical difficulties.

The export market is also immensely promising, the BWE enthuses, backing its buoyant outlook with an estimate from the Büro für Technikfolgenabschætzung that over the next five to 15 years, some DEM 165 billion a year will be spent worldwide on renewable energy development.

Finally, the BWE suggests a series of measures to be taken as part of the EU Action Plan, scheduled to emerge from the green policy paper by the end of the year. It favours a European Directive to open access to electricity grids and to secure non-discriminatory payment for renewables generated power. On pricing, the BWE recommends a combination of pricing rules contained within standard contracts.

Furthermore, it recommends a change to Europe's existing Electricity Directive. Instead of allowing member countries the option to give priority to electricity from renewable sources, the BWE suggests this option become an obligation. At the same time, it should be clear that the higher costs of renewables must be paid by the consumer -- but not be regarded as subsidies.

In conclusion, the BWE recommends a target of 50,000 MW of wind power in Europe by 2010 to supply about 5% of the EU's power consumption. Today there is no more than 4000 MW installed in Europe. It also recommends the establishment of a European Renewable Energy Agency, a co-ordinating European export office for renewable energies and an EC Task Force to co-ordinate existing and future renewable energy activities.

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