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08 Jul 2022, 13:46
Kerstine Appunn

Parliament weakens building efficiency standards, nature protection – reactions to new energy transition laws

Clean Energy Wire

Both the federal parliament (Bundestag) and the council of state governments (Bundesrat) have passed this year’s first major batch of energy transition and renewables legislation. Many observers from industry and civil society find fault with the new rules. A Green-party led ministry is in charge of most of the bills and there is support from the chancellery to initiate a renewables boom that helps end dependence on imported fossil fuels.

The Nature and Biodiversity Conservation Union (NABU) criticises that the rules for hydropower, onshore and offshore installations come at the price of less environmental and biodiversity protection. NABU also criticises a lack of more ambitious standards for building facades in the new Building Energy Act (GEG), which regulates the saving of energy and use of renewable energies for heating and cooling in buildings. “This perpetuates completely outdated standards. Against the background of the energy crisis and the failure to meet the sector targets in the building sector, these are absolutely unacceptable steps,” they write.

The association of municipal utilities VKU says it is regrettable that requirements for the combined heat and power plants (CHP) are “far removed from reality”. “Instead, they should pave the way for the use of hydrogen and biomethane in CHP plants.”

Greenpeace Germany said that climate minister Robert Habeck (Green Party) “is ushering in the long-fought transition to renewable energies” but added that after the summer break, the government needs to improve the legislation to create better opportunities for repowering existing wind turbines (i.e. replacing them with new, more effective models).

The federal agriculture ministry (BMEL) said that giving farmers the option to install agri-photovolatic systems on arable land and grassland (as long as it is not protected), is a good solution for the growing competition for land, as animals can graze under the systems, for example. “On the other hand, the additional possibility of generating renewable energy serves the goal of reducing dependence on fossil fuels,” the BMEL press release says.

Energy industry association BDEW said the law package is taking Germany “a big step forward”. The BDEW welcomes the new rules that oblige the states to use a certain percentage of their surface area for onshore wind developments, but says that this area should have been designated by 2025 and not by 2032 with a lenient interim target for 2027. They also lament that no nationwide uniform assessment method for species protection near wind turbines has been included, which could lead to further delays in the planning and construction of new wind parks. Also the amendments to the Wind Energy at Sea Act (WindSeeG) fall short of BDEW's expectations. “Instead of a future subsidy via contracts for difference, the current market premium remuneration and the risk of several zero cent bids on an area will remain,” they say.

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