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The pace of change - connecting offshore wind in Germany

509_1.jpgInfrastructure development in Germany moves at a slow pace. This would seem to be supported by my own experience here in seeing the relatively modest progress of a flyover being built opposite my window for the last year and a half.

The German Government is preparing a bill for the summer on how to get offshore wind connected to the grid. This is to meet their ambitious targets for renewables and forms part of the "Energiewende" - Energy Transition which is the country's "no-looking-back" approach to the Fukushima disaster of 2011. Nuclear is out and renewables are being fasttracked to meet 35% of electricity demand; with installed offshore wind expected to reach 14 GW. The green lobby in Germany has never had it so good.

The reality is that the current operational capacity off the north and east coast of Germany is only 200 MW[1] and 70 times this capacity is needed to come online in the next 8 years if the offshore target is to be met. Several gigawatts of wind projects remain "in the pipeline" but there is a lack of coordination in laying the real "pipelines", in this case the high voltage direct current HVDC electrical connections to the onshore grid. Projects are stuck in a planning and legal quagmire, with no clear statement yet from the government on how to prevent a "cable salad[2]", who will take responsibility for failure to connect and meeting deadlines between the TSOs, wind operators, suppliers and insurance companies.

Tennet, the Dutch Transmission Operator which operates part of the critical North-South line in the German grid, is attempting to address its own scheduling problems and is seeking direction from the government. As recently as last month, Tennet have called for a programme of three measures: a binding long-term offshore plan, clarification of legal liability and creation of a German direct-current grid operator. Indeed, it would appear that the key ministers in the ruling coalition, Dr Rösler (BMWi - economy and technology) and Dr Röttgen (BMU - environment) have sent out a positive signal to address the issues, and a bill is expected before the end of summer. Whether offshore wind connection can then accelerate enough to meet the 2020 targets remains to be seen -certainly the pace at which a flyover is built does not bode well.

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