Counter attack by wind lobby, EC and premium rates

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German renewable energy associations are countering the European Commission's attack on the country's premium prices for clean power with a massive lobbying offensive directed at all 672 members of the federal parliament. The initiative -- which aims to make MPs aware of the full facts -- is spearheaded by the country's new wind association, the Bundesverband Windenergie (BWE).

BWE claims the EC's attack, launched by competition commissioner Karel van Miert, is based on false information supplied by utility Preussenelektra. This Van Miert failed to verify before demanding a reduction of the premium rates paid under Germany's Electricity Feed Law (EFL), claims BWE.

"If additional costs due to wind energy are to be discussed then the basis has to be figures which can be explained and checked by an independent body," says the association. Until the existence of such costs has been established, utilities can only complain about a reduced turnover because wind is replacing other generation, adds BWE.

It argues that purchases of power under the EFL by a distribution company can only be compared with purchases from another generating utility at local market level. A regional distributor company buys power at medium voltage for around DEM 0.155/kWh, according to BWE. This is only DEM 0.02/kWh less than the rates for wind power under the EFL. Preussenelektra and other utilities, however, claim they are having to pay an additional price for electricity from renewables of DEM 0.13/kWh.

BWE rejects the notion that wind energy is being subsidised, arguing that the premium price merely accounts for the environmental benefits of renewables. And in another jab at utility obtuseness, it states: "In 1996, nuclear power was supported to the tune of DEM 600 million from the federal budget, this is several times more than any potential additional costs arising from renewables."

Members of parliament are warned not to accept a ceiling on the amount of renewables power which utilities are required to buy. Proposals have been made to amend the EFL so that "supra-regional" utilities are required to buy a maximum of 5% of their supplies from renewables. BWE predicts this limit could be reached as soon as 1998, bringing an abrupt end to the expansion of wind energy.

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