31 Jan 2023, 13:25
Benjamin Wehrmann

EU suspension of environmental checks a boon for German energy transition – econ min

Clean Energy Wire

The implementation into national law agreed by Germany’s government of an EU emergency regulation on the accelerated buildout of renewable energy sources will greatly boost the country’s energy transition progress, economy minister Robert Habeck has said. Together with earlier decisions such as higher support rates in renewable power auctions and the reform of the Renewable Energy Act (EEG), today's proposed reform — a “never seen before wind power accelerator” — will bring about a new dynamic for decarbonising the energy system that is sorely needed for climate action, economic competitiveness and security, Habeck argued. The temporary EU emergency measure was introduced in late December 2022 amongst other things that enable member states to relax environmental and species protection rules which currently prolong the licensing of many renewable power projects — including solar power arrays and heat pumps. In particular, this means that project licensing can be done after a so-called “strategic” environmental assessment has taken place in larger areas where installations can be built, while an individual assessment for a project’s environmental impact is no longer necessary. “It’s clear that species conservation is and remains important,” Habeck said, adding that “material species protection” will be safeguarded through a range of measures where necessary. Operators will be required to come up with balancing measures for their projects or, if this is not feasible, pay into a species protection fund that finances efforts elsewhere.

Wind power federation BWE said the regulation could potentially lead to a significant acceleration of turbine licensing and construction. “Given the enormous task ahead for wind power, this measure arrives not a moment too soon,” BWE head Hermann Albers said. He advocated for lifting the duration of what’s currently 18 months and making leaner environmental impact assessment rules a new standard. Energy industry association BDEW commented the relaxed rules could shorten licensing “by years.” Renewable power association BEE stressed that Germany’s leading role in pushing for the EU regulation had been a success. “This shows that turbocharging renewable power is possible if policymakers are willing to do it,” BEE head Simone Peter argued.

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