German renewable energy support debated

Wind industry fights to preserve guaranteed pricing scheme as liberalisation gathers pace

A debate is heating up in Germany over the future of financing and support schemes for renewable energy sources. At a conference organised in Bonn this week by the European association Eurosolar, German wind energy producers fiercely defended the merits of the national guaranteed price system against mounting evidence of an uncertain future.

Since 1991, German utilities or grid operators have been obliged to purchase power produced renewably, for which they must pay a minimum guaranteed price set by the government. National renewables producers claim the system has led Germany to the top of the world in terms of installed wind energy capacity (ENDS Daily 12 February).

But the renewable energy producers are becoming increasingly worried by strong opposition to the guaranteed price law. Hostility from national utilities is mounting and has led to a number of court cases initiated by major electricity companies, who want the constitutional court to annul the so-called "renewable energy feed-in law".

Criticism has also come from Brussels in the form of a letter from competition commissioner Karel van Miert to the German finance ministry. Although not a formal warning, the letter sent in July this year claims that the German renewables support scheme is not in line with the current liberalisation of the EU's internal electricity market.

German wind energy producers are hoping that the Commission will soften its position before publishing a directive to harmonise renewable energy support schemes, which is expected in the next few months (ENDS Daily 18 March). The industry is fearful that the Commission might force modifications to the German approach

According to the Herman Scheer, head of the European renewable energy association Eurosolar and a German MP, the impressive figures for German wind energy make it "very clear" that Germany's current system is the best way to develop renewable energy sources. Countries with similar schemes, such as Spain, Denmark and the Netherlands, have had similar success, he told ENDS Daily, whereas countries like the UK, which do not, are lagging behind.

German renewable energy producers are also waiting to see what, if any, changes the new government will make to the current support system when it comes up for a scheduled review in 1999.

Follow Up:
Eurosolar, tel: +49 228 362 373; German wind energy association. tel: +49 228 352 276.

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