Rösler: State Engagement for Offshore Grid Means of Last Resort

Yesterday Economics Minster Philipp Rösler met with representatives of the German coastal states and representatives of the transmission system operators (TSOs) to discuss ways to accelerate the connection of offshore wind farms to the grid. He acknowledged the high investment costs and did not exclude further state engagement (staatliches Engagement), but said this could only be a means of last resort. Primarily grid expansion was the responsibility of the TSOs, he said.

The meeting dealt with the issue of liability for grid connection delays and the disruption of the operation of offshore power lines as well as the need for considerable investments for grid expansion, particularly in the north sea. In view of difficulties regarding the timely connection of offshore wind farms to the grids, the governments goals of 10 GW offshore grid capacity by 2020 and 25 GW by 2030, are in danger. Finding a solution to the problem is therefore high on the agenda of the government, as offshore wind power is an important corner stone of the Germany energy policy after Germany decided to withdraw from nuclear power until 2022 last year.

The government would present a bill concerning the liability issue this summer, Mr Rösler said. At the beginning of July the Economics Ministry (BMWi) and the Environment Minstry (BMU) had already issued a joint press release highlighting key items for a future liability regime for offshore wind farm grid connection and an offshore grid development plan. Mr Rösler pointed out that not only should a solution for an appropriate allocation of risks be presented, but also the necessary system change towards an offshore grid development plan effected. Two days ago the transmission system TenneT TSO GmbH and 50Hertz Transmission GmbH as well as trade associations had called for a system change regarding offshore grid connection.

Further details of possible involvement of the German state with regard to offshore grid expansion remain to be discussed. In February 2012 Tennet had proposed to set up a German direct current grid company that should be responsible for planning, financing, building and operating new offshore direct current power lines and the future HVDC grid. The head of Bremen’s Chancellery, Dr. Olaf Joachim, was quoted in the BMWi press release on the meeting as saying a speedy solution for the offshore problems was needed, hence an open discussion about “an involvement of the state regarding the grids” was needed.

The difficulties with financing offshore wind farms due to the above mentioned problems also figure prominently in a press release by the state-owned KfW development bank on its report for the first half of 2012. Despite the fact that the bank increased its activities in the environment and climate protection area, it did not make any new commitments with regard to offshore wind farms in 2012 despite continuing interest in bank support. Due to grid connection delays further projects had been postponed, the bank said. It was involved in the discussions to improve financing for offshore grid connection and grid expansion, the bank added.

Sources: Federal Ministry of Economics and Technology; KfW

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