Offshore cabling costs: dutch sea blockade

Dutch state-owned Tennet is warning that German offshore plans will fail. It calls for more safeguards when cabling windmills offshore.

Employees of Dutch grid operators are pleased to see additional safeguards for German offshore installations. Photo: dpa

Companies in the wind industry are putting pressure on politicians to bring out better financial conditions for the construction of offshore wind farms. The German Federal Network Agency also points out that the participation of private households in the costs has been too low so far. If this position were to prevail, the price of electricity for consumers would continue to rise.

At present, the expansion of wind farms on the North and Baltic Seas is progressing more slowly than hoped. One reason for this is that the grid operator Tennet cannot complete the cable connections for the wind farms fast enough. The Dutch state-owned company bought part of the German high-voltage grid years ago and is obliged to wire wind turbines offshore.

Tennet CEO Lex Hartmann attributed the problems, among other things, to an unfavorable regulation of damage liability. He said the federal government was placing too high a risk on companies in the event that wind farms were not connected in time. If a wind farm is unable to supply electricity due to a missing line, Tennet will have to accept liability of up to 100 million euros in the future. That’s what it says in a new bill that was the subject of the Bundestag’s Economics Committee on Monday.

Aigner under fire

"This is how the energy transition fails, offshore energy dies," Hartmann said. His reasoning: Because of the high own contribution to the liability, Tennet does not succeed in mobilizing further capital from external investors. Hartmann denied reports that the U.S. company Anbaric was involved. In addition, the suppliers of the grid technology – Siemens, ABB and Alstom – are holding back with the construction of the lines. Thus, offshore wind energy is increasingly falling behind schedule, Hartmann said. He is particularly critical of Consumer Affairs Minister Ilse Aigner (CSU). She had campaigned to tighten liability rules and convinced the environment and economics ministries to do so.

Other companies, such as Siemens and the German Energy Industry Association, echoed Tennet’s criticism. The German Federal Network Agency also sees Tennet as being overly burdened and wants to place a greater burden on private electricity customers. According to the draft law, private households are to co-finance those liability sums that exceed Tennet’s own contribution with 0.25 cents per kilowatt hour of electricity consumed.

"The cap on the levy at 0.25 cents per kilowatt hour is clearly set too low," the network agency’s statement for the hearing reads. Despite the criticism, the environment and consumer ministries do not expect the draft law to be changed in favor of the grid operator.

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