Berlin softens wind support reforms

Chancellor Angela Merkel and German state premiers agreed on a compromise over reform to the country’s Renewable Energy Act (EEG) that foresees less harsh limits to the scope and support of wind power than originally planned.

Following pressure from Northern German coastal states and complaints from renewable energy groups, the federal government will stick to a 2.5GW annual cap for the expansion of onshore wind. But it will now not include any additional capacity arising from repowering measures in that limit, as envisaged in a draft reform put forward by energy minister Sigmar Gabriel

“I believe a good compromise has been reached within the area of onshore wind. Repowering isn’t in the cap any longer,” Jutta Blankau, senator for urban development and environment for the city state of Hamburg, said at a conference.

Blankau added that the state premiers, Merkel and Gabriel also agreed on a model for onshore feed-in tariffs that foresees a less harsh cut to onshore wind FITs on moderate-wind locations than originally planned – a measure welcomed by Southern German states that are laggards in wind power and feared that too harsh FIT cuts would choke off the fledgling wind expansion in their regions.

For offshore wind, the government will maintain its lowering of a 2020 target to 6.5GW from the 10GW previously envisaged. But Gabriel now will allow an additional 1.2GW in permits to ensure that the 6.5GW will really be reached even if some projects were not to proceed as planned, Blankau said.

The government will also stick to a two-year extension until the end of 2019 of the so-called compression model for offshore wind FITs, which grants operators a higher initial FIT during the first eight years of operation to help them meet elevated initial costs.

The initial FIT for offshore will, however, be lowered by one euro cent in 2018, but the government will refrain from a further degression a year later.

After the compromise was reached, the cabinet in Berlin is slated to approve the EEG reform next week so that it can be voted upon by parliament before the summer recess.