* Says hopes to implement plans 2015/2016
* Stresses the scheme will not be about hand-outs
* Commits to more energy reforms soon
(Adds quotes, background, context)
BERLIN, June 25 German Economy Minister Sigmar
Gabriel said on Wednesday he will introduce a market for spare
power capacity which will help keep loss-making coal- and
gas-fired power stations stay open on standby for when wind and
solar plants are not producing.
He said he hoped to implement the plan from 2015/2016, and
in any case before 2017, when under current reforms green power
will switch to an auction-based system rather than receiving
funds regardless of whether there is demand for the power.
There are concerns in Germany that as the country switches
from nuclear energy to renewables, it could face electricity
shortages at times of unfavourable weather for wind and solar
power, at the same time as reliable back-up capacity is being
forced to shut because power prices are not profitable enough.
Experts agree that although the German power market is
technically still in a supply surplus, it faces the possibility
of regional blackouts in the coming years.
Utilities warn they will shut large parts of their
conventional power fleet as a result of a crisis partly arising
from a glut of subsidised green power, but also slack demand.
Critics see the companies' demands as calls for state
hand-outs for a troubled industry, but Gabriel said it was part
of a necessary integration of the two systems.
"This is not about subsidies but about maintaining power
supply security while we are expanding renewables," Gabriel told
the BDEW energy association's annual congress in Berlin.
"We need a market-based solution for back-up capacity."
The parliament is due to pass Gabriel's first energy reform
package on Friday following last-minute changes made in response
to objections from the European Commission.
A number of capacity market models have been floated over
the past two years, but Gabriel made specific mention of
proposals both from the BDEW last autumn and a one from local
utility association VKU.
BDEW has said its plan would not generate more bureaucracy
but be market-based, allowing storage operators, virtual plants
and flexible renewable units to compete.
(Reporting by Alexandra Hudson and Vera Eckert, editing by