What happens to old city buses

Runtime extension for wind power

Debate about EEG amendment

The number of wind turbines in Germany could decrease massively in the next few years. The industry is therefore calling for changes to the planned EEG amendment and is hoping for a meeting with Economics Minister Peter Altmaier on October 14th.

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Wind farm in East Frisia: In Lower Saxony alone, plants with a capacity of three nuclear power plants will lose the right to financial support from the EEG by 2025.

From Volker Kühn

"The construction of systems for generating electricity from renewable energies is in the public interest." This is what it says in paragraph one of the amendment to the Renewable Energy Sources Act (EEG), which the Federal Cabinet passed on 23 September. If the Bundestag and Bundesrat agree, it will come into force in January. In fact, however, the number of wind turbines could fall massively as a result of the law. At least that is not only feared by the wind industry, but also by politicians from the opposition and parts of the governing parties. From their point of view, one important passage is missing from the EEG amendment: a regulation for the future of first-generation wind turbines.

The low electricity prices on the exchange make continued operation unprofitable

These systems, which were built in the noughties, will soon lose their entitlement to financial support through the EEG surcharge after 20 years of operation. From a technical point of view, most wind turbines could still run for years. But the operators would then have to sell the generated green electricity at the market price on the stock exchange. However, it is so low that it is often not worth continuing to operate. After all, there are also costs associated with systems that have long been written off. The maintenance effort even increases after the end of the planned operating time.

“The danger is that the operators will shut down the wind turbines after the first damage,” says Wolfram Axthelm, Managing Director of the German Wind Energy Association (BWE). "They have to be dismantled after a year at the latest."

The energy transition threatens a huge step backwards. With a share of around 30 percent, wind power is by far the most important electricity supplier in Germany. In fact, their importance should grow even more when the last nuclear power plant is shut down at the end of 2022 and the last coal pile at the latest in 2038. Industry, business, environmental associations and energy scientists are therefore warning of a huge green electricity gap.

An analysis by the Lower Saxony Ministry of Energy and the consulting firm Windguard shows how big the problem is. Most of the around 30,000 onshore wind turbines in Germany are in Lower Saxony, at almost 6,400. According to the analysis, 3500 of these will reach the end of statutory funding by 2025. Together they have an output of 4.3 gigawatts. That is three times as much as the Emsland nuclear power plant can generate. This service is in danger of being lost. "We are heading for a disaster," said Lower Saxony's energy minister, Olaf Lies (SPD), to the "Handelsblatt". According to the BWE, there is even a risk of dismantling wind turbines with a total of 14.3 gigawatts across Germany in the medium term.

This threatens massive shutdowns of valuable green electricity systems in the next few years

Julia Verlinden, energy expert for the Greens in the Bundestag

But even if the operators decide to keep the old systems running, it remains to be seen whether they can still offer their electricity on the exchange. Because some network operators no longer want to transport it via their lines. For them, the effort they have to make to keep the grids stable despite the weather-related fluctuations in the amount of electricity from the wind farms is too high. After the end of the EEG subsidy, so their argument, they are no longer obliged to feed in the green electricity.

Julia Verlinden, spokeswoman for energy policy for the Greens in the Bundestag, thinks this is absurd: “This threatens massive shutdowns of valuable green electricity systems in the next few years,” she told EnergieWinde. She urged the federal government to urgently present a practicable solution for the continued operation of the plants.

If the wind turbines are dismantled, the space for new plants is often lost

The wind energy association BWE sees another problem: According to its information, almost 70 percent of the old wind turbines are located on areas that are no longer primarily designated for wind power. If the systems are dismantled, new ones cannot simply be installed there. This so-called repowering is a great opportunity to increase performance. Because technology has made leaps and bounds in the past two decades: Today, turbines with more than five megawatts are also being used on land. A single wind turbine generates as much electricity as four, five or even more systems 20 years ago.

In addition, the areas on which the first wind turbines were built are particularly valuable for the industry. On the one hand, they are largely accepted by the population, so that fewer protests are to be expected when the new buildings are built. On the other hand, these are often areas with particularly good wind conditions that promise higher yields.

On October 14th, Altmaier will talk to the industry about the future of old systems

The BWE is therefore calling for an interim solution of three years for old systems. This gives the federal states enough time to adjust their land use plans and enable repowering.

The association wants to present its objections at a round table on October 14th, to which Economics Minister Peter Altmaier has invited at short notice. The video conference, which is about the future of the so-called post-EEG systems, should last two hours. The first reading of the law in the Bundestag is expected to take place on October 29th. There will be a hearing on November 18, and at the end of November, but no later than December 18, there will be the second and third reading of the law and the vote in the Federal Council.

The pressure on the German government to accelerate the expansion of renewables has increased further: just this week the EU Parliament decided to tighten the climate targets. By 2050, the CO2- Emissions are reduced by 60 percent compared to 1990. This means that Germany is also required to make a greater contribution.