September 12, 2019 / 10:58 AM / 7 days ago

German regulator backs push to cut red tape for wind power constructions

MUNICH (Reuters) - Germany’s energy regulator supports an overhaul of legal procedures and red tape by the economy ministry to reverse a sharp fall in wind turbine constructions that threatens to throw the country’s energy transformation off course.

FILE PHOTO: Power-generating windmill turbines are pictured during sunset from the Drachenberg hill in Berlin, Germany, August 19, 2019. REUTERS/Fabrizio Bensch

Onshore turbine constructions fell 82% to 287 megawatts in the first half of 2019, the lowest level in nearly two decades as Germany works towards an ambitious goal for renewable energy sources to supply half of its electricity by 2030.

“We are convinced that the expansion towards 65% of renewable power on the grids by 2030 can only be reached if the expansion of onshore wind is revived, “ said Jochen Homann, president of the Bundesnetzagentur authority.

“Further talks have been agreed,” Homann said in an interview during a conference.

His remarks came after economy minister Peter Altmaier held a crisis meeting with the industry last week, identifying red tape and an unwillingness to accept wind infrastructure by citizens among the main stumbling blocks and promising action.

“Too few land areas are being readied. Approval processes are taking too long,” said Homann.

On Tuesday, the Bundesnetzagentur, that holds the licensing auctions for new capacity, reported the latest auction was undersubscribed again, with 187 MW out of 500 MW awarded.

This happened despite a higher average price of 6.2 cents/kilowatt hour compared with the wholesale market’s benchmark price of around 5 cents.

While renewables overall have reached 41% of the power mix after 20 years of subsidised growth, onshore wind contributes 18% and offshore wind only 4% of the total, with the remainder from water, solar, biomass and waste.

Speakers at the conference said that bickering between states and citizen participation were part of Germany’s federal and regional consensus-style politics. But this was threatening progress while wind technologies aged fast.

Homann also commented on the agency’s role in bringing about the long-term closure of German coal fired power plants after a draft law seen by Reuters last Thursday set out first scenarios for implementation.

The Bundesnetzagentur will have to organize the auctions for phasing out hard coal-fired plants and identify priorities for possible enforced shut-downs.

“This involves not just identifying when plants started production but also what retrofit measures (installing new or modified parts) were taken in the past,” he said.

“This will lead to some controversial talks with the companies,” he added.

Reporting by Vera Eckert, editing by Elaine Hardcastle

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