Germany: Healthy growth for wind industry in first half of 2009

According to recent numbers released by the German wind energy institute DEWI, the domestic wind energy market completed the first six months of 2009 at a similar level as in the previous year.

Between January and June 2009, 401 new turbines with a rated power of around 800 MW were installed in Germany, which takes the total installed capacity up to approximately 24,700 megawatts.

"We assume that the German market grow will grow stronger than the world market in 2009," said Hermann Albers, President of the German wind energy association BWE. “Thanks to the amendments to the renewable energy law (EEG), we expect around 2,000 MW of new capacity in 2009. This would mean an increase of over 300 MW compared to the two previous years. For 2010, we can realistically assume some 2,500 MW of new additions to Germany’s wind power capacity", Albers said.

Wind energy – an energy source with a fantastic future!

19,460 wind turbines with a total capacity of 22,247 MW were installed in Germany altogether by the end of 2007. 39.5 TWh of wind electricity were generated during this year. These are over 7% of Germany’s electricity consumption. German manufacturers of turbines and components hold a world market share of 37% – earnings of about six billion euros in 2007 in exports. The sector currently employs more than 100,000 people.

The Renewable Energy Sources Act (EEG) – basis of success for German wind energy

An early feed-in law for wind electricity has existed in Germany since 1991. The Renewable Energy Sources Act (Erneuerbare-Energien-Gesetz / EEG) came into force in 2000. Since then, under EEG regulations electricity produced from renewable energy sources is given priority for grid connection, grid access in either distribution and transmission grid, and power dispatch. These include hydropower, wind, solar, and biomass energy, geothermal energy as well as landfill, pit and sewage gas. Grid operators are obliged to feed in electricity produced from renewable energy and buy it at a minimum price within their supply area. The regulation also introduced a German-wide scheme to equalise these costs incurred by grid operators, as the amount of energy from renewables being fed into the system differs in the various regions. The law was amended in 2004 and the next amendment is scheduled for 2008.

The tariffs are generally fixed for 20 years. As of 1 January 2008 the basic tariff is set at 5.07 euro cent. The initial tariff for onshore wind energy is set at 8.03 euro cent and will be paid for a minimum of five years. Depending on the quality of site the initial tariff is granted between 5 and 20 years.

In order to allow for technological progress and continuous cost reduction, the compensation rates are subject to nominal annual degression. In the case of wind energy, this is set at an annual 2 % for new wind energy turbines.

The tariff for offshore wind energy is presently set at 8.92 euro cent (initial tariff), with the basic tariff at 6.07 euro cent, for a period of 20 years. There is an additional prolongation for deeper waters and a growing distance from the coast.

Another important regulation is the German Federal Building Code which treats wind energy plants as so called privileged projects. Local authorities are supposed to designate specific priority- or preferential zones for wind energy utilisation. However, this means that they can also restrict construction to specific areas (exclusion zones).

Future Development – wind energy in Germany by 2020

According to calculations from BWE there is still a potential for new turbine capacity up to 10,000 MW that could be erected on already commissioned sites onshore. Additional onshore capacity will come from repowering: first projects and new studies clearly state that repowering has the potential to double the amount of wind energy capacity onshore in Germany with significantly fewer turbines and can triple the energy yield. By 2020, the overall German onshore capacity could be at 45,000 MW, with an additional 10,000 MW offshore wind. With a generation of approximately 150 TWh/year wind energy could deliver 25 % of the German electricity consumption by this time.

For reaching those targets, however, it will be important that the framework conditions are set in the right way. As mentioned above, the amendment process of the regulations and tariffs of the Renewable Energy Sources Act (EEG) has begun and is currently debated by the Parliament. For the wind sector improvements are already visible for offshore tariffs which shall be set at 14 cents/kWh for the first twelve years of operation. The discussion for onshore wind, however, is much more difficult. Prices for wind turbines have risen – not only in Germany – by 20-30 % in relation to the capacity.

This is mainly due to higher raw material prices. The price of steel for example (which makes up for 80 % of material of a wind turbine) has doubled since 2004. Higher prices, together with restrictive planning framework conditions such as height limits for turbines, make it much more difficult for operators to implement attractive new projects. The German WindEnergy Association is therefore asking for a dynamic compensation of prices for important input factors such as raw material prices. This will be crucial for continuation of the successful deployment of wind energy in Germany, for a measurable contribution to climate protection and for being successful in reaching the new European 20 % target for renewable energies. The coming debate on the EEG will show how successful future policies can be.