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Germany's 16 states support renewables

The governors of Germany's 16 states threw their weight behind the country's Renewable Energy Act (EEG) at their conference on Friday. They are open for reforms of feed-in tariffs but reject a switch to US-style Renewable Portfolio Standards.

 - While Americans see RPSs as targets, Germans see such "quota systems" as ceilings blocking further growth.
While Americans see RPSs as targets, Germans see such "quota systems" as ceilings blocking further growth.
BUSO Bund Solardach eG

In addition to the Bundestag (essentially, German Parliament) and the Bundesrat (the house of parliament that represents states' rights similar to, but not identical with, the US Senate), governors of Germany's 16 states also meet in the Conference of Minister-Presidents, as governors of German states are called. While the Bundestag has sometimes attempted to cut back on German feed-in tariffs for renewables, the Bundesrat repeatedly steps in to block the changes and call for greater support for renewables.

The reason is quite simple – the states benefit greatly from the growth of the renewables sector. So it should come as no surprise that the Conference of Minister-Presidents threw its support behind the EEG on Friday. Torsten Albig, Minister-President of Schleswig-Holstein (the state that really got wind power started 20 years ago) said Angela Merkel's coalition is slowing down the energy transition. In a radio interview, he called for grids to be expanded and said that Environmental Minister Peter Altmaier is blocking too many things. Specifically, wind farms in his state are increasingly not able to sell power to the grid because the grid is already overloaded. He added that utilities are now claiming that their conventional plants have to remain online to provide "reactive power" even though wind turbines and ground-mounted solar arrays can also already do the job. Last week, Renewables International reported that reactive power is now becoming the new excuse for why conventional power is needed.

Priority grid access for renewables has paid off

Albig says Germany's future energy supply will be based on distributed power generators – and they will be able to cover industrial power demand as well. By 2022, Schleswig-Holstein plans to get all of its power from renewables. Bayern and Baden-Württemberg have announced similar plans. At the Husum wind power trade show last month, Altmaier said that the states need to coordinate their actions, a statement that the minister-presidents have taken to mean that a ceiling will be imposed on renewables. They have called on the German government to come up with a master plan for the Energiewende by next summer. In a press release (in German), the Conference stated that "with its stipulation of priority grid access for renewables and long-term feed-in tariffs, the Renewable Energy Act has proven to be the best option. Now, the discussion has to focus on a strategy to grow renewables so that Germany can reach its targets for 2020 and 2050." Along with growing renewables further, the Conference says that any revised EEG would have to focus on better grid integration.

Limiting exceptions

The minister-presidents also commented on the current debate about the EEG surcharge and rising power prices. "The discussion must not be limited to the EEG surcharge, but also has to take an overall view of the economy," the press release states. While the governors agreed that the cost impact of power prices for industry and commerce has to be monitored closely, they also want the exceptions for energy-intensive firms to be reviewed in order to "prevent abuse" and "limit power costs for the general public." Indeed, the Minister-President of Bavaria comments in the press release that the guarantee of grid access in the law probably rules out a limit on installations for particular states. (Heiko Schwarzburger / Craig Morris)

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