EU Commission gives green light to German investment on wind power

On Thursday  (April 16), a financial support plan of €29.3 billion targeting the domestic wind energy sector in Germany was approved by the European Commission. The decision was disclosed in a press release from the EC.

The Commission stated that the investment is not in breach with EU state aid rules, as the aid is limited to what is necessary to realizing the investment, Reuters reported. The wind projects were under scrutiny due to their large size, which exceeds the 250 MW threshold set by state aid rules for environmental protection and energy. According to the EC statement, the state aid would not distort market competition.

The decision gives the go-ahead for twenty offshore wind farms with a combined capacity of about 7 gigawatt (GW). This will result in a substantial growth of total wind energy capacity in the EU, which in 2014 accounted for 128.8 GW, with over 30 percent of the total coming from Germany with a capacity of 39.2 GW, as reported by the European Wind Energy Association (EWEA) in their 2014 statistics (pdf). EWEA estimated that the 2014 level of wind power capacity in the EU produces about 284 TWh of electricity per year, covering 10.2 percent of the total EU electricity demand.

Financial support to the wind energy projects will be conveyed via the German Renewable Energy support scheme (EEG 2014). Under this framework, aid will be granted through a premium on top of the electricity market price.

The investment contributes to the phase-out of nuclear from the German energy mix, in accordance to the German energy transition (Energiewende) strategy developed after the Fukushima disaster of 2011. The wind farms should be operative by 2019, contributing to meeting the EU and German energy and environmental targets, the EC said.

Wind energy capacity in Germany has grown sharply since the turn of the century, from nearly 5 GW in 1999 to 39.2 GW in 2014. As reported by the Guardian, looking at the net capacity growth in 2014 Germany outperformed all other EU countries, with an increase of 5.28 GW as opposed to the 1.74 GW of the United Kingdom, who came in the second place.

(Image: Offshore wind farm in Thanet, England, September 2010. Photo credit: Nuon/Flickr)