Library filed under Taxes & Subsidies from Germany
Solar subsidies cost German consumers billions of dollars a year and are widely regarded as inefficient. Even environmentalists are concerned that Berlin's focus on solar comes at the detriment of other renewables. But the solar industry has a powerful lobby, and politicians have proven powerless to resist.
The aspect of the energy policy that has drawn the greatest criticism, however, is the fact that it has been accompanied by higher electricity prices for companies and consumers alike. ...Germany's largest steelmaker, ThyssenKrupp, even blamed the policies for the sale of one of its steel mills. European Energy Commissioner Günther Oettinger has even warned: "High electricity prices have already initiated deindustrialization in Germany."
"We're seeing a major step backward regarding clean-energy jobs because of a lack of strategic industry policy coming from the federal government," Steffen Streu, a spokesman for the economy ministry in Brandenburg, said. "It was always said that each coal job given up will re-emerge in the renewable sector. That's not the case at the moment."
Germany's nuclear phase-out is creating a new divide within the economy. On the one side are the energy-intensive businesses in the aluminum, cement and paper industries, which will see their electricity bills go up as a result of the nuclear phase-out. And on the other side is the growing renewable energy sector, which is starting to fill its order books as Chancellor Angela Merkel's nuclear turnaround becomes a reality.
Like solar, wind generation varies greatly depending on weather conditions. Power prices have dropped to negative values already at times of extreme wind supply and low demand. ..."If Germany adds 5 GW of solar this year, we may end up with over 50 GW of volatile wind and solar capacity that can't be controlled according to demand."
There are much cheaper ways to reduce carbon dioxide emissions than subsidizing renewable energies. CO2 abatement costs of PV are estimated to be as high as $1,050 per ton, while those of wind power are estimated at $80 per ton. By contrast, the current price of emissions certificates on the European emissions trading scheme is only 13.4 (Euro) per ton. ...Moreover, the prevailing coexistence of the EEG and emissions trading under the European Trading Scheme (ETS) means that the increased use of renewable energy technologies generally attains no additional emission reductions beyond those achieved by ETS alone.
As much as 100 billion euros ($143 billion) in planned investments in German offshore wind farms are at risk as developers struggle to get funding, jeopardizing the deepest emissions cuts in the European Union. Bochum's municipal utility expects its first wind park to be delayed by up to two years, Managing Director Bernd Wilmert said. HEAG Suedhessische Energie AG, a regional energy supplier known as HSE, had to go to twice as many banks as it would have needed last year to finance a 1.3 billion-euro North Sea wind farm, Chief Executive Officer Albert Filbert said.
Germany was replaced by the United States as the world's No.1 market for newly installed wind turbines last year due to falling subsidies, the German wind energy federation BWE said on Tuesday. While new installation of wind turbines worldwide rose about 31 percent overall to 20,076 megawatt (MW), new installations in Germany slumped 25 percent to 1,667 MW last year, the association said in a statement.
Renewable energy made up more than 14 percent of Germany's electricity consumption in 2007, but further progress may be hindered if government support is cut back, according to new statistics. ...Energy drawn from wind, solar, water, biomass and thermal heat accounted for 9 percent of Germany's total primary energy consumption last year ...
Federation president Johannes Lackmann said investment in renewable energy sources turbines had actually fallen in 2007 and called on the German government to do more to stimulate its growth. "The government's current provisions are insufficient to continue the successful course of recent years," he said. Tax breaks and other subsidies that renewable energy sources receive in Germany are due to be gradually phased out over the next few years, which "green" producers say will erode their already weak competitiveness compared to traditional energy sources such as coal and nuclear power.
Subsidies for Germany's solar industry will be cut back more than previously announced to free up funds for offshore wind power plants, sources close to the German environment ministry said. The government plans to increase the maximum subsidy for wind power to 0.11-0.14 eur per kilowatt hour from currently 0.09 eur, the sources said. The changes will also force solar power firms to increase the profitability of their facilities if subsidies are cut. German environment minister Sigmar Gabriel is expected to make a statement on the Renewable Energies Law today.
Since the oil shocks of the 1970s, governments around the world have paid plenty of lip service to renewable energies such as wind and solar power. But only a few governments have been able to engineer policies that have begun to bring alternative energies into wider use. Renewable fuels provided 18% of the world’s total electricity supply in 2004, according to figures from the International Energy Agency, a Paris-based intergovernmental organization. Almost all of that, though, came from hydropower, a source with limited growth potential because of geographic constraints. The use of wind and solar power is growing, but they still generated only 1% of global electricity production in 2004, the latest year for which figures are available.
World leader in terms of installed capacity is Germany (20,621 MW), followed by Spain (11,615 MW), the USA (11,603 MW), India (6,270 MW) and Denmark (3,136 MW). According to Peter Ahmels, President of the German Wind Energy Association, the secret of Germany’s fast growing wind energy market lies in the feed-in system with fixed prices for 20 years: “So investors know exactly what they get. Compared to several other systems in Europe, the German feed-in law is one of the cheapest.” Christian Schnibbe of Wind Project Development adds: “Due to a reliable and sustainable basis of the Erneuerbare Energien Gesetz (Renewable Energy Law in Germany, ed.) and a growing industry, wind has become mainstream. In addition, the growing international demand for renewable energy has also pushed the development in Germany.”
Rube Goldberg would admire the utter purity of the pretensions of wind technology in pursuit of a safer modern world, claiming to be saving the environment while wreaking havoc upon it. But even he might be astonished by the spin of wind industry spokesmen. Consider the comments made by the American Wind Industry Association.s Christina Real de Azua in the wake of the virtual nonperformance of California.s more than 13,000 wind turbines in mitigating the electricity crisis precipitated by last July.s .heat storm.. .You really don.t count on wind energy as capacity,. she said. .It is different from other technologies because it can.t be dispatched.. (84) The press reported her comments solemnly without question, without even a risible chortle. Because they perceive time to be running out on fossil fuels, and the lure of non-polluting wind power is so seductive, otherwise sensible people are promoting it at any cost, without investigating potential negative consequences-- and with no apparent knowledge of even recent environmental history or grid operations. Eventually, the pedal of wishful thinking and political demagoguery will meet the renitent metal of reality in the form of the Second Law of Thermodynamics (85) and public resistance, as it has in Denmark and Germany. Ironically, support for industrial wind energy because of a desire for reductions in fossil-fueled power and their polluting emissions leads ineluctably to nuclear power, particularly under pressure of relentlessly increasing demand for reliable electricity. Environmentalists who demand dependable power generation at minimum environmental risk should take care about what they wish for, more aware that, with Rube Goldberg machines, the desired outcome is unlikely to be achieved. Subsidies given to industrial wind technology divert resources that could otherwise support effective measures, while uninformed rhetoric on its behalf distracts from the discourse.and political action-- necessary for achieving more enlightened policy.
If wind energy really is the energy of the future, as the developers claim, it must prove itself in the market without government subsidies. This has not yet happened anywhere; the projections are all based on artificial models with hidden costs -- costs for you and me, the taxpayers and consumers.