RWE queries Germany’s wind power targets

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RWE has become the first big German utility to question the government’s goal of installing 10,000MW of offshore wind power by 2020, a keystone for its plans to make Europe’s largest economy nuclear free two years later.

“I don’t see how we can get 10,000MW done,” Peter Terium, RWE’s CEO-designate, said as the company put into service one of two specialised ships for building offshore windparks. “I think maybe 6,000MW is possible.”

RWE’s warning is a shot across the bow for the government of Angela Merkel, which has faced mounting pressure from industry to produce a detailed road map for its stated aim to make Germany nuclear free by 2022.

Mr Terium stressed that falling short of offshore windpower targets would not necessarily threaten the government’s ambitious plans to switch Germany to renewable energy. Other sources such as solar were growing strongly, he said.

But he cautioned the government should pay close attention to its first “monitoring report” on the so-called energy transformation, expected in the next few months, and make adjustments to its policy if necessary.

RWE on Monday put into service a ship that will help install the 48 wind turbines for the 300MW windpark known as North Sea East. It will come into service next year – if network group Tennet can build a connection in time.

The €1bn project is RWE’s first offshore windpark in Germany and part of €10bn windpower investments which it plans to realise by 2025 – with the bulk of 6,500MW in offshore capacity located off the German and UK coasts.

The Essen-based company said it would also build some 5,000MW of onshore wind capacity by 2025 – “core markets” being Germany, the UK, the Netherlands, Poland in northern Europe, and Spain and Italy in southern Europe.

RWE had hoped to get North Sea East, which can meet the electricity needs of 300,000 households, to come on stream this year. But problems in co-ordinating this with building power lines out to sea stymied its ambition.

Asked to name the biggest risk to Ms Merkel’s energy policy – born after last year’s Fukushima disaster in Japan – Mr Terium said: “Networks, networks, networks” – needed to carry electricity from the sea to the south of Germany.

Apart from dealing with local protests about new power lines, Germany’s electricity network providers have shied from building connections at sea for fear the windparks they are meant to serve will be built late or not at all.

To take the risk out of building power lines into the sea, the government has proposed a system which would see network companies get up to 80 per cent of lost transmission revenues if a windpark is not built as planned.

“We need to ensure the security of network access,” said Mr Terium. He said he hoped Ms Merkel’s new environment minister, Peter Altmaier, “gets into the dossier quickly” to watch over the energy transformation.

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