Grid operators fight reduced capital returns / 'Never again cheap fuels'
Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung / BDEW
Transmission grid operators are protesting the lowering of their equity capital return, suggested by the Federal Network Agency (BNetzA), the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung reports. Hans-Jürgen Brick, CCO at grid operator Amprion, told the paper that phone cable operators were receiving more in capital returns than power network operators, even though there were new and costly investments necessary in the electricity grid in order to transport wind power from the north to the south of Germany. The BNetzA plans to lower the equity capital return on new grid investments as of 2019 because of the current low-interest phase.
The German Association of Energy and Water Industries (BDEW) warned in a separate statement that reducing the equity capital return by 25 percent, as suggested by the BNetzA, would make it the lowest in the whole of Europe and could lead to delays in grid expansion.
German economics minister Sigmar Gabriel’s controversial proposal of placing a flexible tax on fuel that would rise and fall according to oil prices is a good idea and it should not be abandoned despite the loud opposition to it, Mark Schieritz writes in Die Zeit. While Germany doesn’t exactly need new taxes and is currently enjoying a budget surplus, the cheap fuel at the pump is more of a curse than a blessing, Schieritz adds. The environment suffers because it no longer makes economic sense to invest in fuel-efficient engines, develop alternative drive technologies or expand public transport. For the past six weeks, the government has subsidised purchases of electric cars, but so far less than 2,000 car buyers have applied.
Troubled German energy company E.ON is listing its conventional power division Uniper but the move lacks a convincing plan, Angela Hennersdorf writes in WirtschaftsWoche. Uniper comprises commodity trading operations and more than 300 coal and gas power plants worldwide — fossil fuel-burning assets that have no place in the post energy transition era, Hennersdorf adds. She describes E.ON’s plan to list 53 percent of the unit in September as “shaky,” pointing out that electricity produced by gas plants is profitable at prices of at least 45 euros per kilowatt hour, but recent wholesale prices for gas-generated electricity were at less than 30 euros.
Handelsblatt Global Edition
Creditors of insolvent energy company Windreich are set to receive a major haircut, Handelsblatt Global Edition reports. According to a report by insolvency administrator Holger Blümle, investors will see a return of just 30.9 percent of their original investment back, or 86 million euros of the outstanding 271.3 million in claims agains the defunct company. Once Germany’s largest developer of off-shore wind farms, Windreich filed for bankruptcy in 2013 after spreading itself out too thin. The company raised some 130 million euros on the bond market, promising a 32,500 euro return on a 100,000 euro investment. Blümle recently sold Windreich’s stake in the Merkur offshore wind farm for 85 million euros, 50 million of which went to pay off interest on debts.
Read the article in English here (behind paywall).
Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung
The heads of the conservative CDU-CSU parliamentary groups in the German Federal Parliament have complained about a letter by energy minister Sigmar Gabriel stating that previous governments had “ignored” the necessary integration of the German energy transition in European politics, the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung reports. The conservatives have been one of the ruling parties since 2005. In their response letter, the parliamentary group protests this notion and highlights other short-comings of the minister, such as an increase in wind power additions in northern Germany and the failure to curb the renewables surcharge.
Utility company E.ON and Norwegian Statoil have started construction work on their new offshore wind project near the island of Rügen in the German Baltic Sea. Wind turbine installations will begin in 2017. Once completed in 2019, the wind farm with 60 turbines made by Siemens will have a capacity of 385 megawatts, which can supply 400,000 households, E.ON said in a press release. The investment amounts to 1.2 billion euros.
Read the press release in English here.
Erneuerbare Energien Magazin
When power prices linger below zero for six hours or more, wind turbines larger than 3 megawatts in capacity don’t receive any remuneration. This could become a problem for wind farm operators when more hours with negative prices occur after a possible split of the German-Austrian electricity price zone, Nicole Weinhold writes in a commentary for Erneuerbare Energien. The times when power prices fall below zero could also increase because of the oversupply with electricity. “The government has to finally decide to phase-out coal power,” Weinhold says.
Read the op-ed in German here.
Read a CLEW factsheet on negative power prices.
Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung
Hamburg offers little open space for renewable energy plants, but the city is developing a plan – known as “New 4.0” – to tap renewable energy being increasingly produced in the neighbouring state of Schleswig-Holstein, Olaf Preuss and Julia Witte gen. Vedder write in Die Welt. Michael Beckereit, CEO of Hamburg Wasser and managing director of renewable energy subsidiary Hamburg Energie, says Schleswig-Holstein could produce up to 170 percent of its own required energy by 2025. With 110,000 customers, Hamburg Energie is a leading renewable energy provider in the city: in addition to being the biggest operator of photovoltaic plants, it will soon be Hamburg’s largest operator of wind turbines.
Read the article in German here.
Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung
Communities in the German state of Hesse will soon be able to benefit financially from wind power even if they don’t directly operate wind farms, according to a report in Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung. Hesse’s Official Gazette has published rules on “wind energy dividends” that allocate 20 percent of net income from wind farms located in state forests surrounding cities or towns to those communities. Hesse environment minister Priska Hinz said the decision allowed communities and their residents to drive the energy transition together, solicit support and make a significant contribution to climate protection.