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ENERGY

Utilities hiking power prices

Two German utilities – Vattenfall and EWE – announced on Wednesday they would dramatically raise electricity prices for their customers starting next year, blaming the higher cost of renewable energy.

Utilities hiking power prices
Photo: DPA

Vattenfall said private customers would have to pay 5.9 percent more in Berlin and 4.4 percent more in Hamburg starting January 1. The hike means an average household would have to fork out an extra €28.80 in Berlin and €24 in Hamburg each year. Businesses will see their electricity costs surge 8.9 percent.

Germany’s fifth largest power provider, Oldenburg-based EWE, also said it was raising prices on average by 14 percent next year.

The move follows EnBW’s decision to raise prices by 7.5 for some of its private customers.

Consumer website Verixov.de have counted at least 40 power companies planning to charge more next year. Many have said they have no choice as their costs rise from legislation meant to encourage firms to turn to renewable energy sources.

The country’s two other biggest utilities, RWE and E.ON, have not yet follow the price hikes after bleeding customers due to increasing competition in recent years.

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ENERGY

Sweden to stop local governments blocking wind parks in final stages

Sweden's government has proposed a new law which will remove local municipalities' power to block wind parks in the final stages of the planning process, as part of a four-point plan to speed up the expansion of wind power.

Sweden to stop local governments blocking wind parks in final stages

“We are doing this to meet the increased need for electricity which is going to come as a result of our green industrial revolution,” Strandhäll said at a press conference. 

“It is important to strengthen Sweden by rapidly breaking our dependence on fossil fuels, building out our energy production and restructuring our industry. The Swedish people should not be dependent on countries like Russia to drive their cars or warm their homes.”

“We are going to make sure that municipalities who say “yes” to wind power get increased benefits,” she added in a press statement. “In addition, we are going to increase the speed with which wind power is built far offshore, which can generally neither be seen or heard from land.” 

While municipalities will retain a veto over wind power projects on their territory under the proposed new law, they will have to take their decision earlier in the planning process to prevent wind power developers wasting time and effort obtaining approvals only for the local government to block projects at the final stags. 

“For the local area, it’s mostly about making sure that those who feel that new wind parks noticeably affect their living environment also feel that they see positive impacts on their surroundings as a result of their establishment,” Strandhäll said.  “That might be a new sports field, an improved community hall, or other measures that might make live easier and better in places where wind power is established.” 

According to a report from the Swedish Energy Agency, about half of the wind projects planned since 2014 have managed to get approval. But in recent years opposition has been growing, with the opposition Moderate, Swedish Democrats, and Christian Democrat parties increasingly opposing projects at a municipal level. 

Municipalities frequently block wind park projects right at the end of the planning process following grassroots local campaigns. 

The government a month ago sent a committee report, or remiss, to the Council on Legislation, asking them to develop a law which will limit municipal vetoes to the early stages of the planning process. 

At the same time, the government is launching two inquiries. 

The first will look into what incentives could be given to municipalities to encourage them to allow wind farms on their land, which will deliver its recommendations at the end of March next year. In March, Strandhäll said that municipalities which approve wind farm projects should be given economic incentives to encourage them to accept projects on their land. 

The second will look into how to give the government more power over the approvals process for wind projects under Sweden’s environmental code. This will deliver its recommendations at the end of June next year. 

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