German Wind Power Sets Example for Growth

On the heals of an announcement from the global wind industry reporting a market expansion of 20 percent last year and that Europe once again dominated with over 70 percent of new installations in 2004, the British Wind Energy Association (BWEA) is welcoming the publication of a report by the German Energy Agency, DENA, clarifying the cost of integrating wind power into the German electricity grid.

“Contrary to press stories that claim this report calls into question Germany’s policy to dramatically expand wind generation, it actually sets out that the country’s power network can be adapted quite easily for such an expansion, and at reasonable cost,” BWEA said in a statement. While BWEA is awaiting the full translation of this lengthy and detailed report, initial analysis of the executive summary, together with the official English press statement from DENA and a translation of the press statement made by German Environment Minister Jurgen Trittin, the organization said they are baffled “that the report’s findings could be so misconstrued.” The headline finding of the report is that expansion of Germany’s wind power capacity to 37,000 megawatts (MW), up from a world-leading 17,000 MW now, can be accommodated by extending and upgrading 5 percent of the country’s grid, and increasing power prices by only 0.36-0.45 Euro cents/kWh (0.25-0.31 p/kWh). As a result, the average household electricity bill will increase by only Euro 12.6-15.8/year. Put in context, for an additional cost to the UK consumer of about GBP 10 per year, equivalent to two cinema tickets, Germany will achieve 20 percent of its power from renewables, reaping the benefits of lower carbon emissions, economic development and security of energy supply. The recent report by the National Audit Office indicated that sourcing 10 percent of the UK’s electricity from renewables would also increase power bills marginally, by about 5 percent by 2010, in the same order of magnitude as the numbers in the DENA study. “Given that gas prices are volatile and high, which has resulted in steep rises in power bills, this small rise in costs appears to be excellent value for money,” BWEA said. Wind will provide the vast bulk of the new renewable power required to meet this target. For this small additional cost, the UK wind industry will deliver savings of between 10 and 17 million tonnes of carbon dioxide, a significant part of our country’s carbon dioxide reduction plans, thousands of new jobs and of course improve our nation’s energy security. “This report, like that produced recently in the UK by the National Audit Office, makes clear that a significant expansion of wind power can be delivered at only a small additional cost to both German and UK consumers,” Marcus Rand, chief executive of BWEA said. It is true that carbon emissions can be reduced from present levels through energy efficiency at a lower cost than using wind power. However, savings available from efficiency gains are a one-time benefit and do not eliminate the requirement for environmentally sustainable power supplies. There is a need, given the scale of emission reductions required, for new carbon-free power generation to be developed alongside a rapidly expanding energy efficiency programme. Any coherent climate policy will include both energy conservation and renewables – and both the UK’s and Germany’s policies do just that.
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