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Power places - 8. Saxony-Anhalt

WORLDWIDE: Where once there was a wall, now there is a welcome. Saxony-Anhalt is the first of two former East German areas in our top ten. It is no coincidence that these regions, on the old interface between the former Communist Bloc and the capitalist West, fare so well in our Power Place ranking.

When the Iron Curtain, which ran along the western boundary of Saxony-Anhalt, crumbled and the process of German reunification began, a new spectre emerged: unemployment. Under communism, everyone had a job, if not wealth. With the march of capitalism, inefficient, heavy polluting industries died and unemployment in many former East German areas, including Saxony-Anhalt, spiralled. The state government encouraged investment in the wind power sector as a way to fill the economic gap left by the defunct power stations in the former East Germany.

As a result of these efforts, Enercon has established manufacturing in the Saxony-Anhalt capital of Magdeburg - making use of existing machine-building facilities and expertise, and, in so doing creating around 3,000 jobs in the region. Today, Saxony-Anhalt has the third-highest installed capacity of all German states, providing a substantial boost to employment and the wider economy. As a result, the Saxony-Anhalt government's support for wind energy development is expected to remain high.

Germany is a good place to locate wind, and the main driver for development in Saxony-Anhalt, as it is in all states, is the Renewable Act (REA). The act, which came into effect in 2001 and has been amended several times since, provides feed-in tariffs for electricity generated from renewable sources. Apart from securing revenue levels for wind projects, the law generally obliges grid operators to connect wind farms to the grid. This, along with other features of the REA, has helped reduce project risk significantly.

In the light of ambitious European deployment targets for renewable energy, Germany revised its national target and tariffs, aiming to double its share of electricity from renewable sources,from current levels to more than 30% in 2020. Most of this is expected to be derived from wind power - both onshore and offshore.

Wind power development in Germany has a privileged status in the construction planning process. For smaller developments, a planning permit is issued by the building authority appointed by the relevant state. Unlike their counterparts in other leading wind regimes such as the UK, German politicians portray wind power development as being wholly in the public interest, and local communities are required to be included in decision-making. As far as Saxony-Anhalt is concerned, though, it risks becoming a victim of its own success: As the saturation of wind energy sites increases, development is expected to slow. As with other largely rural areas with significant wind development, grid integration and transmission of electricity, along with identification of suitable sites, are expected to become the main obstacles to further expansion.

And, despite the German government's positive approach to wind and renewables, the burgeoning sector remains a challenge for legislators, as planning laws constantly need updating to free up development space. But the wind industry in Saxony-Anhalt has already transformed the landscape. This is the wind-power-friendly state that was once home to the border watchtowers of the Iron Curtain but which now hosts steel towers of a very different kind.

Saxony-Anhalt, Germany

FOR

  • Feed-in tariff
  • Ambitious renewables targets
  • Regional government support
  • Wind industry cluster

AGAINST

  • Grid bottlenecks
  • Site saturation

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