Citizen’s wind projects favoured in Germany’s drive for renewable energy

Regulators have run a competitive awards system to grant licences to generate more than 1GW

Germany is increasing its onshore wind energy capacity by more than 1 gigawatt, with most of the licences being granted to Citizen Energy Societies.

The licences to generate the extra capacity – equal to that of a nuclear plant – were awarded on Tuesday under a system designed to intensify competition among project developers. It is hoped this will lower costs and wean renewable energy away from subsidies. Under the German Renewable Energy Sources Act (EEG) 2017, Citizen Energy Societies’ need at least 10 individuals as members or shareholders; a 10 percent maximum voting right for a member or a maximum of six wind turbines with an installed capacity of 18 MW. The societies can be run or owned by co-ops, but a breakdown of owners was not available.

In the second auction under the new system, the Bundesnetzagentur (BnetzA) said it accepted 67 applications, mostly from citizens’ societies, for a combined volume of 1,013 megawatt (MW). Overall, 281 bids with a joint capacity of 2,927 MW had been submitted.

“The second round of tenders, too, was characterised by high competition,” said BnetzA president Jochen Homann. “Compared with the first round, the average price at which projects were awarded fell by more than 1 euro cent per kilowatt hour.”

The projects, mostly in eastern Germany, were approved at an average price requiring a subsidy of 4.28 euro cents per kilowatt hour (kWh), down from 5.71 euro cents/kWh in the first round in May.

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Rather than guaranteeing a fixed price for 20 years, as was the case in the past, only those operators that can generate electricity from wind at the lowest subsidy are given a construction license within a fixed capacity.

Citizens’ wind projects, which are favoured in the new auction system over big commercial players in order to make development more acceptable within local communities, accounted for 90% of the successful bids.

One more auction round is planned later this year to bring this year’s capacity to 2,500 MW, the annual expansion rate targeted by the government. After the first two rounds, it stood at 1,820 MW.

Renewables accounted for nearly 32% of Germany’s power consumption in 2016, with onshore wind the biggest source at 11%, according to industry group BDEW. Germany aims for renewables to generate 40-45% of its energy by 2025.

• 21st August 2017 update: A reference to all Citizen Energy Societies being co-ops was removed since it is not known if they are all bona fide co-ops.