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25 Feb 2021, 13:17
Charlotte Nijhuis

Majority of Germany’s pioneer wind turbines continue operation after end of renewables support

Tagesspiegel Background / Tagesschau

The vast majority of old wind turbines in Germany for which fixed feed-in tariffs under the Renewable Energy Act (EEG) ceased this year remain in operation, Steven Hanke writes in Tagesspiegel Background. Of the 3,600 megawatts (MW) of wind power capacity whose 20-year support period ended on 31 December, only 16.9 MW have been decommissioned so far, according to calculations by Jürgen Quentin from the onshore wind energy agency, Tagesspiegel reports. Wind turbine operators currently benefit from increasing electricity prices after the historic low during the coronavirus crisis, but in a few months, things could look different again, Quentin said. Of the 3,600 MW of wind turbines that could have stopped operations, more than 2,000 MW have switched to directly selling their electricity, instead of participating in a new government funding scheme for old turbines which was included in the 2021 amendment of the EEG, Hanke writes.  

The expansion of renewables in Germany has been stagnating in recent years. Experts fear that if the wind turbines built 20 years ago will be torn down on a large scale, this would set back the energy transition by years, Tagesschau writes. There is a risk, says Volker Quaschning, professor of regenerative energy systems at the Berlin University of Applied Sciences, "that we will end up with a zero or even a negative installation figure at some point".

The amendment to the EEG was passed in the federal parliament (Bundestag) in December 2020. The law’s overhaul aims to make renewable power producers more market-ready by sticking to renewable tenders but also includes interim solutions for old solar PV and onshore wind installations. If these operations cannot make a profit, some 16,000 MW of onshore wind capacity could be decommissioned by 2025, the industry has warned. By 2027, the government wants to propose how, and by when, renewables funding via the EEG could be stopped entirely – provided a market-driven renewables expansion is to be expected.

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