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Using the opportunities of the energy shift

The main concern of the 2014 Renewable Energies Law is to keep costs down without halting the expansion of renewable energies, and thus Germany’s shift to a more sustainable energy supply. The German government will ensure that the generation of green power is more market-oriented in future.

“A shift to a more sustainable energy supply means not only ensuring the swift expansion of the use of renewables, but also expanding transmission networks, agreeing on a design for the electricity market, and connecting European states across national borders,” declared Federal Economics Minister Sigmar Gabriel on the radical reform of the Renewable Energies Law. The law will pave the way for a gradual shift to renewable energies. The government cannot promise that electricity will become cheaper as a result, Sigmar Gabriel continued.

The reform of the Renewable Energies Law continues to provide for the ongoing expansion of the use of wind power, solar power, etc. but the expansion is to be more predictable, without any sudden jumps in costs. One important tool will be expansion corridors for wind and biomass. Caps on new photovoltaic installations have been in place since 2012.

Differentiated expansion corridors

The amended provisions shall apply to plants going online as of 1 August 2014. Plants approved prior to 23 January that begin operations by 31 December 2014 will still be governed by the provisions of the existing Renewable Energy Law. The Cabinet, meeting in Meseberg, agreed on these cornerstones of the reform.

The percentage of the total energy mix accounted for by renewable energies is to be expanded within specific corridors: by 2025 renewables are to produce 40 to 45 per cent of the total energy mix, with this figure rising to 55 – 60 per cent by 2035. The following corridors are laid down in the law for the individual technologies:

  • Offshore wind power: a total of 6.5 gigawatt (GW) by 2020 and 15 gigawatt by 2030
  • Onshore wind power: annual increase of up to 2.5 (gross)
  • Solar power: annual increase of 2.5 GW (gross)
  • Bioenergy: annual increase of approximately100 MW (gross).

New approaches to remuneration

Plants that go online in 2015 will receive an average support of some 12 euro cents per kilowatt-hour (kWh). This figure is calculated on the basis of the following individual values

  • Offshore wind power (19.4 cent/kWh)
  • Biomass (about 14 cent/kWh)
  • Photovoltaics (about 10.5 cent/kWh)
  • Onshore wind power (8.9 cent/kWh)
  • The precise remuneration is regulated in the law for the individual technologies.

Direct marketing

Thanks to the Renewable Energies Law, green power has moved from a niche existence to become an important element in the energy mix. The German government aims to reduce subsidies gradually and integrate green power into the market. That is why new green power plants are to market their power directly. This obligation for all new plants is to be introduced in stages:

  • As of 1 August 2014 for plants with an output of 500 kW or more
  • As of 1 January 2016 for plants with an output of 250 kW or more
  • As of 1 January 2017 for plants with an output of 100 kW or more.

The management fee that is currently paid will be abolished and covered by the support. This will reduce the overall costs of support. A so-called “default marketing” will in future protect plant operators who are temporarily unable to market their electricity directly.

Power generated for own use

The costs of the shift to a more sustainable energy mix is to be shared appropriately by all stakeholders. Power generated for the generator’s own use too is to be included, with the exception of power plants’ own energy consumption. This makes it possible to keep down the renewable energy levy for all electricity users.

The economic efficiency of renewable energy plants and cogeneration plants will be ensured. There will be a limit for small plants with installed capacity of no more than 10 kW and own consumption of less than 10 MWh a year. This will protect operators from disproportionately complex and costly re-regulation of the power generated by small plants for their own use.

No later than 2017 the level of support for new plants involving tendering is to be determined. A pilot project will initially be launched with ground-mounted photovoltaic systems. A report on experience gained with tendering is to be submitted to the German Bundestag by 30 June 2016.

Introduction of a state opening clause

In conjunction with the reform of the Renewable Energies Law, the German government has adopted a bill to introduce a state opening clause in the German Construction Code. This translates into practice a requirement laid out in the Coalition Agreement.

It provides for the option of introducing state-specific regulations for minimum distances that must be respected between wind power plants and residential buildings, for onshore wind power. This takes account of the fact that the acceptance of wind power plants often depends on their distance from residential buildings. It also recognises the fact that for topographical reasons the context can vary from one federal state to another.

Wind power plants have enjoyed a special status in town and country planning since 1997. The federal states are to be given the authority to make this status dependent on compliance with certain minimum distances. The pertinent state laws must be on the statute books by 31 December 2015.

Details including the distances, and their impact on designations in valid land use and regional plans are to be regulated in the respective state laws.

Source: Federal Government Germany, April 8th, 2014