Saturday, 11 December 2010

In Germany, New Power Generation in 2009 Came Mostly From Solar, Wind

In Germany, New Power Generation in 2009 Came Mostly From Solar, Wind - The Solar Home & Business Journal

Made in Germany sign

A sign denotes a German exhibit at a solar
industry conference in San Francisco.

About 80 percent of total growth in electrical generating capacity in 2009 in Germany’s electricity market was based on an increase in solar and wind power systems, according to the Monitoring Report 2009 issued by the Bundesnetzagentur, the country’s electricity regulatory agency.

"This rapid growth provided solar power operators in 2009 with total earnings almost comparable with those for wind energy operators, although feed-in from wind power systems was almost six times that of solar power feed-in,” said Matthias Kurth, president of the agency. “And we can expect this rapid growth in solar generating capacity to continue, with the attendant consequences for the renewables surcharge and the electricity networks.”

The renewables surcharge will rise in 2011 to 3.53 euro cents per kilowatt-hour, 1.5 euro cents more than the 2010 surcharge, the Bundesnetzagentur reported. But Mr. Kurth said higher returns for electricity network operators are not justified.

“The Bundesnetzagentur is supporting the network operators in upgrading and expanding their infrastructure, for instance by approving their investment budgets. Yet in the consumers' interest, we must resist new calls for higher returns. Current data do not justify these. On the contrary, the current yield established by the Bundesbank, an important determinant of the return on equity, has even fallen," Mr. Kurth said.

Average electricity prices for domestic customers rose by around 3 percent, the agency reported. The reasons include a large increase in the renewables surcharge at the beginning of 2010 and the prevalent long-term procurement strategies of the energy suppliers.

"Consumers themselves can cut their bills considerably by changing to different pricing plans. Standard, or default, supply continues to be the most expensive form of electricity supply. It is cheaper if consumers change pricing plan with their default supplier, or change their supplier. So far, however, not more than half of all domestic customers have done so, although they have a choice of some 120 suppliers on average and can save up to 160 euros a year," Mr. Kurth said.

The Bundesnetzagentur report said electricity networks proved highly reliable in 2009 for suppliers and for domestic, business and industrial customers.

“Although the integration of renewables is a huge technical challenge for the network operators, the electricity infrastructure itself is reliable and stable,” the news release said. According to the current report from the agency on supply interruptions in 2009, the average interruption in the Federal Republic of Germany was 14.6 minutes per final consumer. This figure, called the System Average Interruption Duration Index, has fallen for the third consecutive year and represents a top performance internationally, the agency reported.

“Guaranteeing a high degree of grid reliability is a tremendous challenge in light of the rapid growth of renewables, and one that can only be met if there is huge investment at all network levels,” the Bundesnetzagentur said. Germany’s Power Grid Expansion Act, or EnLAG, promotes realization of the necessary expansion measures, and names 24 projects for priority treatment. Some of the projects have been delayed, however, and planned start dates may be several years late in some cases.

The reports from the transmission system operators on grid extension planning likewise show delays in 37 of the 139 projects, the agency said. The investment data in the Bundesnetzagentur's Monitoring Report document a considerable time lag in the construction and expansion projects for the transmission networks.

The issue is one not unknown in the United States.

"The real problems," Mr. Kurth said, "lie not in companies' lack of willingness to invest. Most people, when asked, are definitely in favor of sustainable generation for the future. But when it comes to a mast being set up near their homes, their agreement is often retracted. The desire for an open landscape for themselves often outweighs theoretical support for global protection of the environment. Much work will have to be done here to persuade people otherwise. The Bundesnetzagentur is aware of its responsibility in helping to win acceptance. Cross-sectoral approaches might be one way of going forward. If a high-voltage mast can bring high-speed Internet to the countryside, resistance may be averted."

The agency said the European internal market for electricity is growing “bit by bit.”

“A market coupling initiative was launched on 9 November 2010 between Germany, France and the Benelux countries,” the agency said in its news release. “On the very same day, this coupling was linked with the Nordic region market coupling, which also includes Germany. The Bundesnetzagentur played a crucial role in creating the coordination mechanisms for this ‘super integration’ to come about. For electricity trading, it means a market that now spans half of Europe.”

The report also discussed electricity trading in 2009 on spot energy exchanges. A clear increase in volumes traded on the exchanges could be observed in the first half of 2010, along with a moderate rise in price levels, it said, mentioning the “growing significance of exchange trading for the integration of renewables.”

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