Golf course as "energy-intensive industry"
For the past year, there have been continual reports about a German golf course being considered "energy-intensive industry" and therefore exempt from the renewables surcharge. Now, it seems the issue can finally be cleared up…. almost.
My fellow Energy Blogger Thorsten Zoerner mentioned an interactive map of German firms that are exempt from the renewables surcharge. He also says he is not able to find the golf course that is allegedly exempt.
Over at German weekly Die Zeit, Marlies Uken, usually a good source of information, also recently spoke once again of the "legendary golf course" that is "exempt from grid fees… along with a bakery and a campground." I asked her whether she was confusing something because leading green politician Jürgen Trittin, who made the issue widely known last year, later retracted the statement, saying that in fact no golf course was exempt.
But Trittin was talking about firms exempt from the renewables surcharge, whereas Uken was now writing about firms exempt from grid fees. And where Trittin was wrong, Uken was right, though she unfortunately did not provide a link to the entry in the Network Agency's list.
Uken’s formulation is also telling: "the golf course that can be exempt from grid fees." So it can be, but isn't? Via Twitter, Heiko Stubner, a former staff member for the late MP Hermann Scheer (considered a main architect of German feed-in tariffs) and currently a staff member at Agora Energiewende, jumped into the discussion to provide me with the link I was looking for. Here, you can see that "Golfclub Johannesthaler Hof” did indeed apply for exemption from the grid fee in February 2012. And the story gets better from there.
The column "Ergebnis" (result) is empty not only for the golf course, but for all of the adjacent applications. I contacted Germany's Network Agency to find out what that means and what some of the other entries mean. Press spokesperson Renate Hichert explained that “Genehmigung” in the results column unsurprisingly means the application was approved. "Verfahrenseinstellung" means that the applicant withdrew the application. And if there is no entry, then there has been no action – no approval, no rejection, and no withdrawal.
In other words, the German golf club has indeed applied for exemption from the grid fee intended for energy-intensive industry, but no decision has been made. The German golfing sector has not exactly try to clear up this matter, merely explaining that "no golf course has applied for exemption from the renewables surcharge" – with no mention of this golf course's application for grid fee exemption.
Nonetheless, the entire story shows how ridiculous the policy has been come. After all, such exemptions are designed to ensure that Germany remains a good business environment for energy-intensive companies. How a golf course can become "energy-intensive" is anyone's guess; it would have to consume 1 GWh of power per year (the original policy designed by the Social Democrats in the Greens set the threshold that 10 GWh) and have a heavy load for 7,000 hours in a year. And how a golf course would relocate to another country is an equally good question.
The policy has thus been criticized for encouraging companies slightly below that threshold to simply leave their machines running in order to save money (the grid fee). The EU is also looking into the matter because it considers the policy to be an unfair subsidy; those who use the grid the most pay nothing, so the costs are spread across smaller firms and households. (Craig Morris)