EnBW CEO fears offshore 'collapse'

Frank Mastiaux, the chief executive of Germany’s third-largest utility EnBW, fears a collapse of the country's offshore wind expansion if the incoming government pushes through with a planned cut in its target.

Environment minister Peter Altmaier and Hannelore Kraft, the representative of the Social Democrats (SPD) in current energy coalition talks, over the past weekend had agreed on steep cuts to support for onshore wind, and on lowering the country’s 2020 offshore wind target to 6.5GW from 10GW the outgoing government had still aimed for.

For 2030, Altmaier and Kraft said they want to lower Germany’s target to 15GW, down from 25GW.

The cuts will “very likely result in a collapse of the appropriate expansion efforts”, Mastiaux told Altmaier and Kraft in a letter, an EnBW press official confirmed to Recharge.

EnBW in August has begun the “hot phase” of construction at its 288MW Baltic 2 offshore wind project, starting to install 80 subsea foundations. The utility already operates the 48MW Baltic 1 offshore wind park that has been supplying power to the German grid since 2011.

But the utility late last year put a final investment decision (FID) of over €1.5bn ($2bn) for its 500MW Hohe See wind project in the German North Sea on hold. As reason, the company cited among other things regulatory uncertainty, which hardly has become less given the cutting plans of the incoming administration.

In order to make FID’s possible again for projects off Germany’s coast, offshore wind groups are lobbying the coalition talks to extend Germany’s “compression model” for offshore wind feed-in tariffs (FITs).

Under the model, wind farm operators can opt to receive a higher FIT of €0.19 ($0.26) per kilowatt hour during the first eight years of operation, before reverting to a lower-than-normal FIT of only €0.035 per kWh for the following 12 years.

But it currently is only available for projects that are grid-connected by the end of 2017, a deadline that is difficult to reach for projects that only now may receive a FID.