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Merkel allies call for renewable curbs as wind overwhelms grid

Senior lawmakers from Chancellor Angela Merkel’s ruling bloc called for limits on subsidies for renewable energy in Germany as output expanded faster than the electricity grid can absorb the additional flows.

Michael Fuchs, deputy chairman of the Christian Democrat party, joined fellow lawmakers in calling on the government to employ flexibility as early as this year in setting targets for clean energy growth, according to a three-page note dated Jan. 18 and sent to the chancellery. Power from wind jumped last year to give clean energy a 33 percent share of the electricity market compared with 27 percent in 2014.

Progress in building a new grid “Autobahn” to take wind and solar power from northern Germany to factories in the south is slow, according to the letter, which was obtained by Bloomberg News.

Germany faces “massive network problems,” it said. “Gigawatt targets can’t be chiseled in stone.” Steps taken in 2015 to maintain grid stability cost power consumers more than 1 billion euros ($1.1 billion), said the lawmakers.

The push by leading members of the ruling party to choke growth in clean energy signals opposition to the policies of Social Democrat Economy and Energy Minister Sigmar Gabriel. Germany is introducing auctions for clean energy from 2017 and is counting on steady growth of wind and solar power to promote the country’s energy transition.

Gabriel seeks annual growth rates for both onshore wind and solar power of 2.5 gigawatts from 2017. His plan is to control the targets using auctions, which will pay winning bidders with guaranteed fixed rates for each kilowatt-hour of electricity generated. Gabriel’s ministry is concerned that cutting auction capacity will hold back development of renewable energy.

The letter from the lawmakers in Merkel’s bloc is timely. Gabriel’s ministry has prepared a bill that will set those growth targets for 2016 and beyond in statute. The letter is a signaled that Merkel’s CDU and its Bavarian Christian Social Union allies plan significant amendments when the bill enters parliament in the middle of this year.