Enercon freezes spend on EEG fears

Enercon – the world’s third-biggest seller of wind turbines last year – is freezing all investments in Germany in reaction to plans by the government in Berlin to impose harsh cuts to the support of onshore wind in the country.

Hundreds of Enercon employees on Wednesday also staged protest rallies at their workplaces against the government’s reform of the Renewable Energies Act (EEG).

“All German investments are on ice until there is clarity about what will happen to the EEG,” Enercon spokesman Felix Rehwald told Recharge.

“Then we will evaluate which investments can still be carried out.”

Germany’s number-one wind turbine manufacturer had earmarked to spend at least €110m ($152m) this year. Among the planned investments was the possible construction of a new facility to manufacture wind turbine components in central or southern Germany to cater for the growing moderate wind market there, Rehwald said.

German energy minister Sigmar Gabriel in a draft amendment to the EEG has proposed a cap of 2.5GW for new wind installations a year from 2015 on. The government also said it wants to cut onshore wind feed-in tariffs (FITs), as well as giving preference in support to strong wind locations.

The proposal also foresees the introduction of tenders for renewable energy projects as well as the phasing in of a new regulation to force most producers of green power to sell it directly on wholesale electricity markets.

Both rules would hit individual and cooperative small-scale producers, which often don’t have the know-how, or the manpower, to act as sellers on electricity markets. Currently, they can feed their energy directly into power grids and get a FIT for that.

Those grass-roots producers currently are responsible for most of Germany’s renewable energy output, and making their life more difficult could destroy business opportunities for companies such as Enercon.

“Many investors into wind energy projects are unsettled by the reform plans and are putting their project plans on ice,” Enercon said in a statement.

“The federal government thus with its unbalanced EEG reform is endangering many existing and additional jobs in the future sector of onshore wind energy.”

Enercon says it has spent an annual average three-digit million euro amount in the past couple of years on new manufacturing, products and staff, creating 3,500 jobs.

Some 1,000 employees in blade production and 200 of the staff at Enercon’s headquarters in Aurich, northwest Germany, on Wednesday downed tools to protest the government’s renewables reform plans.

Renewable energy groups plan protest rallies in several German state capitals on Saturday against the proposals.

Chancellor Angela Merkel on 1 April is slated to meet with state premiers to discuss the reform plans, before the cabinet takes a decision on them early that month.