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Energy Policy: Germany  

According to the study, a further financial and technical strong-arm effort would be required in order to be able to even input the quantity of green electricity planned by the federal government into the German electricity network by the year 2015.

The results of a study commissioned by the federal government into the expansion of wind force have caused quite a stir: The “green” electricity propagated by the Red-Green coalition will indeed be considerably more expensive for the consumers than previously thought. Everything had, in fact, already been regulated. Over months, representatives of the federal government, the large energy producing groups and the wind-power sector had carried out energetic discussions in order to end the smouldering dispute as to whether a further expansion of wind power made sense or not.

A scientific study was to be set up. A work under the direction of the federal government’s own Agency for Energy (dena), which would be able to answer major questions free from the influence of any ideology: Is the amount of additional wind power planned by the federal government feasible at all? What costs would arise? Which technologies must be used in order to feed in the green electricity? What would be the effects of the wind power on the supply of power in Germany?

Well known scientific institutes such as the Deutsche Windenergie-Institut (DEWI: German Wind Power Institute) or the Energiewirtschaftliche Institut zu Köln  (EWI:Institute of Energy Economics at the University of Cologne) were involved, and high calibre external consultants were entrusted with the checking of the results. When the representatives of the power industry and the wind power sector met last Monday, it should merely have been a matter of formalities: the approval of a summary that would then be presented to the general public.
The meeting led to a confrontation, however. Instead of approving the largely complete investigation, participants of the meeting have reported that the representatives of the wind power sector demanded an editorial revision. Without this, they let it be known to the group, they would not agree to the publishing of the study.
Probably with good reason: Because what the scientists had brought together on 490 pages regarding wind power and its expansion is hardly flattering for the ecological prestige project of the Red-Green coalition. The discussion regarding the study, which has been made available to DER SPIEGEL, could bring additional turbulence to the wind power sector, which has already suffered some setbacks.

It was also hardly helpful when the Green Federal Minister for the Environment, Jürgen Trittin, joined with the representatives of the wind power sector in warning against “misinterpretations” of the results, even before their publication. The figures and the statements raise delicate questions, even if meticulous attention has been paid to ensuring that every side can still publicly represent its position while referring to the expertise.

According to the study, a further financial and technical strong-arm effort would be required in order to be able to even input the quantity of green electricity planned by the federal government into the German electricity network by the year 2015.

845 kilometres of powerful high-voltage routes will have to be built in the next few years, at a cost of 1.1 thousand million Euro, in order to be able to integrate the wind parks that will be shooting out of the ground throughout the federal republic.
      € Despite substantial investments into improved techniques, the risks for the supply of
power cannot be completely excluded.
      € The quantity of climate-damaging CO2 gas that would be saved by wind power could be achieved more cheaply with other measures.
      € The costs that the consumers would have to pay for green electricity are considerably
higher than previously assumed. According to the study, the “net additional costs" for the increase of the amount of wind power electricity planned by the federal government from 2003 to 2015 alone amount to between 12 to 17 thousand million Euro. The investment for the network and the support of existing inventory is not even included in this.

The statements made in the study are a blow to the wind power sector in a situation that was already critical. Throughout the country, the resistance of the affected population against the increasing “Verspargelung” of the landscape (turning the German countryside into asparagus fields) is growing. And even those who wanted to profit from wind power are becoming increasingly disappointed. Capital investors have had to accept that the profit forecasts of wind park operators and installation builders have sometimes turned out to be questionable.

Some companies who, only a short time ago, were celebrated as the “great white hope”, have had to accept sharp setbacks in the meantime.
In addition, an increasing number of scientists, politicians and company managers are warning about a possible false path in the energy policy.

"We are risking a blackout in the supply of power if we continue with the promotion of renewable energy in this way " said the President of the Federal Association for Industry, Jürgen Thumann, last week. This kind of criticism could be further nurtured by the dena investigation.
Because, according to the data collected by the scientists, the amount of wind power in Germany will be dramatically increased in the coming years through the statutory promotional measures of the Red-Green coalition. From around 23 terawatt-hours (in 2003), the amount of wind power electricity will rapidly increase to more than 77 terawatt-hours by the year 2015. This would represent more than 16 percent of the electricity consumption in Germany.

In addition to further “asparagus poles” in the country, the so-called Offshore Installations in the North Sea and the Baltic will contribute to the planned increase. But the connection of the wind parks apparently involves hidden risks.
In the year 2003, according to the study, the incalculable wind electricity has already led to  substantial safety risks. In the winter months in particular, with their strong winds, "large-area voltage and network failures could have occurred", which would have led to considerable "risks for the reliability of the supply to the German and European grid interconnection".

The wind power sector and Federal Minister for the Environment Trittin believe that they can avoid such serious dangers in the future. For example, the regulations for inputting into the network have already been changed. Furthermore, additional technical measures in the electricity network and to the individual installations should ensure reliability. Whether this will succeed in good time and to a sufficient extent remains to be seen, however. From 2015 at least, according to the dena paper, critical situations could arise once again, following a temporary stabilization in some network areas. The statements are also less flattering for the argument that is always mentioned as the main reason for the promotion of wind power: The reduction of the greenhouse gas CO2.

The emission of the climate killers will in fact be reduced by the avoidance of the use of fossil fuels such as coal, gas or oil. But according to the study, the same effect could be achieved through other technical measures – and be considerably cheaper. For example, if older power stations were modernised and their efficiency was thereby increased.

Wolfgang Clement, the Federal Minister for the Economy, warned quite openly against further experiments in the energy policy last week. For months now, Clement has been involved in an argument with his government colleague Trittin regarding the further expansion of wind power. Based on the results of the study, Clement has now also publicly expressed doubts. The costs for the green electricity, according to the minister, would increase from today’s 1.4 thousand million Euro to 5.4 thousand million Euro in the year 2015.

One has to ask, says Clement, whether Germany can afford that.
Trittin’s rejoinder was not long in coming. Clement must have been working with the wrong figures, blustered the Minister for the Environment. The expertise from dena actually showed that a further expansion of wind power was feasible at acceptable costs. The households would be burdened with a maximum of one Euro per year.
The mollifications of the Minister for the Environment are just as misleading as the figures of his opponents. In fact, according to the study, the payments to be made to the operators of wind parks according to the Energy Input Law (EEG) will increase from an annual amount of around 2.1 thousand million Euro (2003) to around 5.4 thousand million Euro in the year 2015.

This sum also includes the market price for the corresponding amount of electricity, however.
This will have to be subtracted from the development total in order to determine the added costs of wind electricity compared to conventional electricity. Other costs will also have to be added or subtracted. For example, the added outlay for standard and reserve energy in times of low wind, which the large power companies can reallocate to the running electricity costs.

And this is exactly what the authors of this study have done, in a complex model taking a number of scenarios into account regarding the development of raw material prices (gas, coal or oil) in the future.
The result: For the wind electricity that will be produced in installations that will be additionally built from 2003 alone, the consumers will have to pay between 1.4 und 2.1 thousand million Euro more than for conventional electricity from 2015.

For a normal household with an annual consumption of around 4,000 kilowatt-hours, this would amount to additional costs of between 15.40 and 19 Euro for the additional wind electricity expansion according to the study. These amounts only indicate the "lower edge", however, “as the indirect costs" that result from the promotion of other regenerative energy and the windmills that already exist in 2003, "have not been taken into consideration". If these are also included, an annual "increase in the costs of obtaining electricity" for a normal household of between around 36 and almost 44 Euro results for all regenerative energy from 2015.

Calculations of this kind are very different from the sometimes very different figures that have been mentioned up to now by the green electricity-lobby and the Green party. They assume that the price for conventional electricity will increase rapidly and that green
electricity could perhaps become competitive at some time.

It is exactly here that the problem lies. Instead of openly stating the difficulties and risks that are hidden in the energy path that is being followed, and the costs that the citizens could really be asked to pay, the reaction is wheeling and dealing, fiddling and smooth talking.

There are certainly citizens who would be prepared to promote wind energy, despite the higher costs, in order to reduce the current dependency on gas, coal and oil. In general, there is no objection to the technology itself. At locations with really strong winds, they can make a contribution – even if considerably smaller – to the supply of power.
Massive over-promotion and an unbridled expansion, however, include risks and could cause costs in thousands of millions, which are documented in the dena study for the first time.

Whether such realisations will be quickly reflected in politics is, however, questionable.
Economy Minister Clement will, however, make use of the data from the study in order to make the planned expansion of renewable energy somewhat more modest than previously planned. It seems unlikely, however, that he will start this attempt within the current legislative period.

Because, above the adversaries Clement und Trittin, there is somebody who wants to avoid a new fundamental conflict between economy and ecology under all circumstances in the upcoming continuous election campaign of the next few months: Federal Chancellor Gerhard Schröder.
He wants as much calm as possible in this matter, no wind at all.

This article is the work of the source indicated. Any opinions expressed in it are not necessarily those of National Wind Watch.

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