Bonn/Düsseldorf, 14 February 2018 – Few large investors dominated the German wind auctions in 2017, while local community wind projects, so far drivers of the market, will hardly play a role any longer, without major changes to the regulations. The rules which were set up by the German government to protect community energy investors have failed to achieve this goal. In addition, the NRW State government has created additional challenges which may lead to job losses and generally shrinking wind investment in the state.
The onshore wind auctions introduced in Germany in 2017 are about to squeeze out small and community based investors – up to now the main drivers of the German wind market – and are favouring large investors. Although more than 95% of the successful bids are falling under the EEG’s legal definition of community power, more than one third of the successful projects was submitted by only one project developer which, like several others, made use of the legal privileges for community energy.
Even the amendments to the auction scheme as introduced for 2018 are not expected to stop the traditional community energy actors from being the main losers. With the auctions, a system has been set up in which success is determined by market power and the ability to speculate. Community based investors are usually not able or willing to take part in such financial speculations, and, unlike utilities, they are not able to simply charge higher prices to end consumers.
As a consequence, WWEA and LEE NRW are demanding rapid action on the federal level. Stefan Gsänger, WWEA Secretary General: “Internationally seen, Germany has been a pioneer and an example for how community energy can make local citizens benefit ecologically and economically from the shift towards renewable energy. In order to continue this role model, the new German government must act quickly: There must be an adequate community energy definition in place, and smaller projects must be exempt from auctions, in accordance with EU de minimis rules. Community wind and small projects should get a remuneration without being forced to participate in auctions, in order to reduce their planning risk. This could be conducive to community power and renewable energy all over Europe and worldwide as many other countries tend to follow the German example in renewable energy policies.”
Jan Dobertin, LEE NRW Managing Director, sees the NRW government obliged to act: “Community energy integrates citizens into the Energiewende and is essential for a successful shift to renewable energy, the Energiewende. Therefore the state government should undertake everything possible in order to support this model which has been the basis for the broad social support. And the government must refrain from setting up additional barriers.”
The NRW state government is, however, continuing its steps against wind power based on the false claim of a lack of acceptance amongst the population. In particular community energy has ensured high support rates amongst local citizens, as proven by several studies. Introducing stricter setback rules or excluding forests for wind projects would be counterproductive and largely stop new wind developments.
The study “Community Wind in North Rhine-Westphalia” is part of a 2,5 years project sponsored by the Foundation for Environment and Development NRW (Stiftung Umwelt und Entwicklung NRW). The project aims at analysing the impact of the switch from feed-in tariffs to auctions on the community wind sector in North Rhine-Westphalia, following the latest amendments of the Renewable Energy Act EEG (and entered into force in the year 2017). The results of the study are based on a survey amongst community wind experts, in personal interviews and in an online survey.