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EU wants body-wide green power scheme

disclaimer: image is for illustration purposes only
by Staff Writers
Brussels (UPI) Dec 7, 2010
The European Commission wants to pressure Germany into accepting a harmonization of Europe's renewable energy trade.

Brussels wants to introduce continent-wide renewable power trading, which would save "billions of euros," according to an energy policy paper prepared by the commission, German newspaper Die Welt reports.

European Energy Commissioner Guenther Oettinger also shoots for a body-wide renewable energy financing scheme that would take into account regional climate differences, the newspaper writes. The scheme, possibly based on certificates, would foresee the construction of offshore wind power units in the North Sea and solar power plants in southern Europe, where the sun is abundant.

While such a plan sounds reasonable, green powerhouse Germany is against it. Observers say Berlin fears the demise of its domestic market.

Thanks to a generous national feed-in-tariff for renewables, the so-called EEG, Germany has built the world's largest solar power market when it comes to installed capacity and the third-largest wind power market behind the United States and China.

While Germany is relatively windy at the coast, the thousands of domestic solar power units would work much more efficiently in sunnier regions -- for example in southern Italy, Spain or Greece.

As the German renewable energy sector has developed into a major industry -- it employs around 300,000 people -- Berlin is eager to keep domestic demand booming.

Yet this strategy is proving increasingly costly for German taxpayers. They're funding the feed-in-tariff, which is guaranteed for 20 years, via their electricity bills.

Payments from the EEG will rise to $11.3 billion by the end of this year, up from $7.3 billion in 2009, the German Association of the Energy and Water Industries, an energy industry lobbying group warned earlier this year.

Well aware that the industry is maturing more quickly than anticipated, Berlin this spring agreed to reduce subsidies for rooftop panels by 16 percent but the German solar power boom has continued. Experts forecast up to 8 gigawatts of installations this year, that's equivalent to four large nuclear power plants.

German consumer association VZBV said solar panels installed in Germany in 2010 will result in additional costs of more than $30 billion during the next 20 years. The EU's plan to regulate financing body-wide could slash costs considerably, Brussels says.

The commission is also warming up to trans-continent energy connections such as Desertec, a multibillion-euro business initiative aimed at powering Africa's as well as Europe's homes with green electricity generated in deserts in Africa and the Middle East.

Desertec could contribute to the EU targets to reduce the body's greenhouse gas emissions by 20 percent, increase renewable energy by 20 percent and improve efficiency -- all by 2020.



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