Mixed response to German renewable energy plan

Question of state aid in spotlight; draft law attacked by utilities, welcomed by wind sector

Germany's draft law on renewable energy met with divided opinion from technical and legal experts at a public hearing chaired by the national parliament's economics and technology committee in Berlin yesterday. Large power firms and industrial power users criticised the plan, while the wind energy industry welcomed it.

Due to replace the contentious feed-in law (ENDS Daily 21 July 1999) retrospectively as of 1 January, the new legislative proposal includes fixed payments for feeding renewable electricity into the grid (ENDS Daily 17 December 1999).

The Green party urged the government to continue insisting that the feed-in support should be considered as market regulation under EU law rather than state aid. Legal experts were divided, one saying that the opinion of the European Court of Justice was that feed-in support was "mere regulation of private prices with a minimum price guarantee which cost only the consumer and not the state". Another argued that the support was "akin to aid in effect".

The big electricity generators and industrial power users were unified in their criticism. Eberhard Meller, of utility association VDEW, said that electricity generated in Germany from renewable sources could be doubled to at least 10% by 2010, but this would require support based upon growing productivity and so more competition. The planned renewable energy law ignored the power of the market, Dr Meller added. Industrial power consumers, represented by VIK, made similar complaints.

Engineering companies welcomed the new law proposal, with industry association VDMA and metal workers' union IG Metall expecting increased exports of wind power generating equipment up from 20% to 80% and 80,000 new jobs in the sector.

Follow Up:
Bundestag, tel: +49 30 2270 - see today in parliament; VDEW; VIK, tel: +49 30 21 24920.

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