06 Sep 2019, 13:34
Benjamin Wehrmann

German energy ministers promise legal overhaul to revive ailing wind power expansion

Clean Energy Wire

The expansion of onshore wind power in Germany and the capacity growth of other renewable energy sources need a clear political plan and adjustments to regulatory hurdles that currently impede the construction of thousands of wind turbines, Germany's economy and energy minister Peter Altmaier and his colleagues from three federal states have said after a national "Wind Power Summit" in Berlin. "Our wind energy industry currently is having some severe problems," Altmaier said, referring to the substantial drop in the number of turbines installed. The number of new turbines has fallen to the lowest level in almost two decades in the first half of 2019. Altmaier said the summit that brought together policymakers, wind industry representatives, conservationists and wind power expansion critics had shown that the stakeholders generally want to make sure Germany's energy transition can succeed. "Just like with nuclear and coal energy, we want to work towards a big consensus."

Altmaier said the meeting was meant to serve as a prelude to a set of measures to ensure that the licensing of wind turbines happens more quickly, sufficient building land is designated for wind power, acceptance among local residents increases and legal conflicts with environmental protection are dispelled by regulatory reforms. He said that Germany needs to spell out in detail how it plans to achieve the goal of having a 65 percent share of renewables in power consumption by 2030, adding that current support caps for offshore wind power and solar power could be lifted or modified. "We all have the will to achieve the 2030 goal. This is not rocket science," Altmaier said. Hermann Albers, head of the German Wind Energy Association (BWE) said the summit had shown "strong backing by the federal states" to keep the industry healthy. The legal reforms would have to bring about positive effects in terms of expansion no later than the second half of 2020 to avert dire consequences for manufacturers, Albers added.

Olaf Lies, energy minister in Lower Saxony, Germany's leading wind power state, said that while critics of the technology make themselves heard quite well in the country, they are by far outnumbered by those who back the energy transition and accept wind turbines as a necessary tool for emissions reduction. Lies said concrete measures to get expansion back on track should be put into law no later than December, at the next meeting of state energy ministers. Lies said "artificial" obstacles to wind power brought about by lawsuits and sluggish licensing could mean that the still renowned German wind power industry eventually meets the same fate as the country's solar power manufacturers, which largely succumbed to foreign competition due to price pressure. "If Germany successfully becomes a CO2-free economy, that's exactly the model that will be copied around the world. But if we continue doing what we do now, this will fail," he said. 

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