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26 Feb 2020, 13:52
Sören Amelang

Ministry plans to soften controversial wind distance rules – report

Germany's economy ministry has proposed softening controversial plans to require minimum distances between new wind turbines and residential areas, rules which would have significantly reduced the area available for wind power, reports Stefan Schultz for Spiegel Online. According to a ministry draft seen by the author, Germany's states are to decide individually whether to introduce a minimum distance of 1,000 metres, instead of having to opt out of a nationwide rule as originally planned.

Germany's renewable industry welcomed the news. Simone Peter, president of industry association BEE, said on Twitter the new rule is "a huge success" for everybody in favour of the renewables roll-out. Energy policy newsletter Tagesspiegel Background said the proposal on minimum distances "suggests a loosening of the wind power blockade," adding that offshore wind and solar power also stand to benefit from a compromise, because new expansion plans are legally tied up with the protracted debate about onshore wind.

In a second draft, the ministry proposes the introduction of a "coordinating mechanism" to ensure Germany reaches its target of supplying 65 percent of electricity consumption with renewables by 2030. A committee of state secretaries from the federal and state governments is to agree on individual states' contributions to the target, and to report once a year on the progress of the renewables roll-out, according to the proposal.

Expansion of onshore wind power, the German energy transition's most important power generation technology, fell to the lowest level in 20 years in 2019, mainly due to regulatory hurdles and local opposition. Critics said the introduction of a nationwide minimum distance rule for wind turbines would have brought expansion to a standstill and would endanger the energy transition. Several German states had already said they would make use of the opt-out clause for the distance rules originally planned.

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