The Renewable Energy Hamburg Cluster is critical of some contents of the latest amendment to the Renewable Energy Sources act. However: The energy transition in Germany will continue to progress in spite of the changing legal requirements. The north is setting a good example: A converter station in Büttel feeds more wind power from the sea into electricity grids.
Anything but problem-free: the expansion of offshore wind parks is being slowed. In spite of the higher costs and delays, electricity lines are to be laid as underground cables, not as overhead cables. Also, grid expansion has fallen behind the expansion of renewable energy sources. This news makes even proponents of green electricity question start to wonder: is the energy transition coming to a halt?
Jan Rispens, Managing Director of the Renewable Energy Hamburg Cluster pours oil on the troubled waters: “We have plenty of success stories when it comes to the expansion of renewable energy sources. Nobody would have expected the electricity grid to be able to absorb 33 percent of electricity from renewable energy sources, as is now the case.” On the contrary, Rispens expects the energy transition to continue confidently: “A lot more is possible if modern real-time monitoring of the transmission grids becomes more widespread and if the expansion of the transmission grids continues to pick up speed in the years to come.”
One of the success stories: Grid operators are supplying consumers with electricity more reliably than ever before. Germany has the fewest power failures per consumer than ever before. Figures from the Federal Network Agency from 2014 indicate an average power failure duration of 12 minutes and 28 seconds per consumer. New processes and technologies contribute to this development to integrate solar and wind electricity into the grid. As recently as February of this year, a German grid operator succeeded in qualifying wind turbines for the provision of balancing energy for the first time. That is a milestone in the energy transition, as more precise forecasts of the exact energy demand now allow fluctuations in the electricity grid frequency to be balanced with wind farms, too, while avoiding transfer losses.
The converter station in Büttel, Schleswig-Holstein, is also running successfully: In the long term, it can convert over 2,100 megawatts of wind power from the offshore wind farms in the North Sea from direct to three-phase current and distributed on to the south. As a result, these facilities will also continue to play an important role in our future power supply – and all offshore expansion plans are still far from completion. There is also the positive price effect: In early July, wind farms that will generate electricity at sea for far less than ten cents per kilowatt hour, won a government tender for offshore wind farms in the Netherlands.
In addition to this, grid operators are offering more than just technical innovations. They also invest a lot of time and money in educating the population – they respond to the citizens’ concerns, especially at a local level. They talk to the people in order to tell them how important the extension of high-voltage lines is in Germany. “Grid operators are present in many towns talking to citizens in order to show that the extension of the high-voltage lines concerns everybody” sags Rispens.
Given the many other successful technical and communication examples in his industry, Jan Rispens, managing director of the Renewable Energy Hamburg Cluster is optimistic. At the same time, he does not agree with some of the contents and direction of the latest amendment to the Renewable Energy Sources Act. “The grid operators are highly successful with their innovations and activities, so that there is no need to slow down the expansion of renewable energy sources as is now the case.” He demands: “The grid expansion must continue to follow the expansion of renewable energy sources - not vice versa.” However, the legislators see things differently: The German Federal Government does not want wind energy to expand faster and aims to keep the costs of the susidies as low as possible. At the same time, the planned tenders are to offer all stakeholders fair opportunities.
“The energy transition cannot be stopped!” is Rispens’ message to consumers: “The dynamics of renewable energies is convincing. The improved forecast of renewable energy sources, the grid stability and not least several showpieces like the converter station in Büttel or the new high voltage line on the western coast of Schleswig-Holstein – these are all promising projects that can drive the energy transition as a key project for society in the years to come.”