State struggles to change mindset

GERMANY: The government of the south-western German state of Baden-Wurttemberg faces a dilemma as it tries to ramp up wind power's contribution to its electricity supply after years of support for nuclear energy from previous conservative administrations.

A coalition government of Greens and Social Democrat parties that was elected in March plans to have a draft law in effect at the beginning of 2012 altering spatial planning rules to allow an increase in wind's contribution to the electricity supply. The target is for wind to provide 10% of the state's electricity by 2020, compared with just 0.8% in 2009.

The government needs to design policy to speed expansion of wind and other renewables to replace nuclear reactors in the state. It must also encourage its population towards greater acceptance of wind power.

Friction is already being encountered from Baden-Wurttemberg's regional planning authorities. The draft law proposes that their existing priority areas for wind energy be repealed in September 2012, so that new priority areas can be identified taking into account the ambitious new target.

More local flexibility

The aim is to increase the number of areas prioritised for wind turbines and replace the arrangements whereby wind developments are banned outside priority areas.

This would allow municipalities - the level of permitting below the regional authorities - more freedom and flexibility in local decisions about where wind farms may be sited, according to the state environment and infrastructure ministries.

Manuela Hahn, spokeswoman for the economy, energy and transport at RegionalVerband Sudlicher Oberrhein, one of the state's 12 regional planning associations, said: "This undermines the holistic planning approach. There seems little sense in regional planners continuing with wind-use planning if priority areas become mere suggestions on a map and no overall regional plan can be drawn up."

Hahn also questioned whether municipalities wishing to draw up their own local wind plans have time to do so by September 2012, when the regional plans expire. But without any wind plans, the privileged status of power stations including wind turbines under federal German building law means that wind developers can lodge applications to install wind turbines anywhere outside built-up areas. "This tends to make a mockery of trying to steer wind developments in a sensible fashion," Hahn said.

Increasing flexibility

Some regional planners want to compromise by augmenting the current priority areas for wind with additional "reserve areas" to give more flexibility to municipalities. All other areas would then continue to be excluded from wind-energy use, Hahn said.

The state's citizens will also have to come to terms with around 1,000 new wind turbines within the next eight years - around 125 turbines per year. The state government hopes to win public acceptance with a series of regional wind energy conferences. Each of these will see the participation of more than one hundred local mayors, rural district councillors, and association and federation representatives. The second of the conferences took place in Karlsruhe at the end of October, following a similar event in Tubingen.

But three municipal associations, known as Stadtetag, Landkreistag and Gemeindetag, are scathing about the state government's efforts to promote wind. They have complained that the September 2012 deadline is much too soon for the municipalities to draw up their own area-usage plans.

They have also said the government's four regional conferences are unsuitable for airing local issues connected with wind-farm construction, as are its proposed district advice centres.