24 Aug 2020, 12:29
David Reay

State minister warns end of German renewables support could lead to wind power slump


The energy minister of the German state with the most wind turbines has warned of an impending “catastrophe” in the industry due to the end of support under the Renewable Energy Act (EEG). Olaf Lies, energy and environment minister in Lower Saxony, told Klaus Stratmann in Handelsblatt that the federal government must act to cushion the effect of the expiration of the fixed feed-in tariffs to “prevent the impending collapse of wind energy”. Germany could face “a gigantic dismantling of wind energy with all the consequences for CO2-free power generation”, the Social Democrat said. Both Lies and the German Wind Energy Association (BWE) say that so-called repowering, or installing new, more efficient turbines in place of older machines, is an important solution. "We are calling for a national repowering strategy that secures and maintains the urgently needed existing sites and simplifies and accelerates project approvals," BWE President Hermann Albers told Stratmann.

Guaranteed remuneration for operators of renewable power installations has been a key component of Germany's energy transition. From 2000, Germany’s Renewable Energy Sources Act (EEG) guaranteed 20-years of payments to turbine operators. Therefore, starting in 2021 and throughout the 2020s, many of Germany’s pioneer wind turbines will stop receiving fixed feed-in tariffs, meaning many gigawatt in renewable capacity may be shut down if they can’t find a new business model to run on. With electricity prices at a low and old turbines becoming expensive to maintain, this puts more than 15,000 megawatts of wind power capacity at risk of shutdown by 2025, writes Stratmann. For comparison, only 1,078 megawatts of new capacity was installed last year, he writes. The federal economy ministry said the end of EEG support will initially affect "only a very small proportion of the total installed capacity” and said refinancing for older plants was available.

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