Germany plans steep wind cuts

Germany’s incoming government is likely to steeply cut support for wind power and lower its target for offshore deployment – to the dismay of renewable energy groups.

Environment minister Peter Altmaier, and Hannelore Kraft, the Social Democrats’ (SPD) representative in energy coalition talks, over the weekend unexpectedly announced an agreement on the rough outline of the still-to-be-formed new coalition government’s renewable policy.

The expansion of onshore wind power in the future should be limited to “good locations” – meaning windy areas in northern Germany – according to the agreement. At the same time feed-in tariffs (FITs) for such locations are also slated to sink.

No exact figure for future FITs has been set yet. But a cut to around €0.06 per kWh of onshore wind is under discussion to reflect a decrease in production costs, down from an average FIT of close to €0.09 per kWh that onshore wind power receives now.

Altmaier and Kraft also said the government will lower its offshore wind target to 6.5GW in 2020, and 15GW in 2030. Currently Germany aims for 10GW of offshore wind parks to be built by 2020, and 25GW by 2030.

The new government will also start a pilot project for a tendering process for wind power from 2018 on, "which should enable further cost reduction potentials," Altmaier said.

Solar power won't face further cuts after a new system for PV support was introduced last year which already included steep FIT decreases.

The agreement also includes fewer support for biomass, which after wind is Germany’s second-biggest renewable energy source.

The planned policy shift won’t result in choking off the Energiewende, Altmaier and Kraft stressed.

“We will make the Energiewende (the turnaround from nuclear to renewables) easier to plan, to calculate, and to afford in the long run,” Altmaier told the press.

The two politicians have been hammering out a mutually acceptable energy policy that would allow their parties to form a coalition following September's elections.

But renewable energy groups say the deal will harm the Energiewende, and make it impossible for Germany to reach its 2020 climate targets.

“The Energiewende will lose speed considerably through the braking manoeuvres for wind energy and biomass,” says Hermann Falk, managing director at the federal renewable energy federation BEE.

It is still unclear whether the new government will also impose an overall cap for the expansion of renewables, as Altmaier and part of his Christian Democratic Union (CDU) party wish. The SPD actually wants to raise Germany’s 2030 renewable electricity target to 75% from 50%.

The talks also have not decided yet whether taxes on electricity may be lowered to compensate for higher costs from a surcharge that most power consumers have to pay to finance the renewables expansion.

The CDU, its Bavarian sister party, the Christian Social Union (CSU), and the SPD today are discussing energy policy in a larger and decisive working group that is drafting the outline of the new government’s policies.