Harmonization versus subsidiarity principle

Bonn, 3 February 2011

"To keep costs down, we should install more wind power plants where the wind blows and more photovoltaic plants where the sun shines" Günther Oettinger, the European commissioner for energy said end of January. Responding to his statement, EUROSOLAR managing director Irm Pontenagel says: "Mr Oettinger's recommendations to supposedly keep costs down base on the assumption that "efficiency on-site" is the decisive factor in the price of renewable energy. This is not the case however; the most efficient use always is closest to the point of consumption".

Offshore wind generation is precisely the form of energy generation that has proved substantially more expensive than onshore wind generation. This is underpinned by the recent findings of a new study by the European solar energy research institute Fraunhofer ISE. Onshore wind systems have gained a clear cost advantage through lower costs for installation, connection to the electricity grid and operation.

By intelligent repowering and using foresight in regional planning, onshore wind power has great potential for deployment and enables regions in Germany and throughout Europe to be involved in and benefit from renewable energy exploitation. Instead of having many producers, future energy generation should remain in the hands of a few, according to Mr Oettinger. Entire areas will be made the hinterland for a transport infrastructure of ultra high volume high voltage lines, supposed to transfer electricity from Casablanca to Helsinki.

As past experience has shown for such large-scale projects, the costs of transmission lines will turn out to be much higher than the current assumptions. But decentralized photovoltaics will for example deliver electricity at costs below those of offshore wind and below grid parity, close to the point of consumption and without long-distance transport, within a few years only. But the current debate aims to conceal this development precisely because photovaltaics can emerge from the niche to become a key bearing part of future energy supply with new indicated support. Mr Oettinger's concept is, therefore, efficient in one respect only: the revenue raised from energy generation continues to flow into the hands of the established players, while the EU citizens are supposed to pay for the necessary infrastructure, the "super grid" to be made available to the businesses in addition.

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