Germany climate package 'lacking in courage and power'

Major demonstrations against climate change took place in German cities on 20 September, the day when the government's "climate cabinet" announced decisions which, claimed the federal environment ministry, mark "a new beginning for German climate policy".

The German government's plans on the climate breakdown failed to convince industry (pic: Wikimedia Commons)
The German government's plans on the climate breakdown failed to convince industry (pic: Wikimedia Commons)

But "the proposals are significant step backwards for the energy transition and a bitter disappointment for all those demonstrating for months for more climate protection," said Simone Peter, president of the federal renewables federation BEE.

"Germany's 2030 climate targets will not be reached with the proposed measures; wind energy expansion is hindered even more, rather than facilitated.

"The climate cabinet has presented a disastrous programme, the federal government must pull the emergency brake and reject the package," commented Deutsche Umwelthilfe, an environment NGO.

"Onshore wind expansion is impeded by new distance to housing rules. This is dramatic because even repowering at existing locations faces new obstacles," it said.

The 65% target for renewables in Germany‘s electricity mix by 2030 along with the necessary framework conditions are to be written into a climate protection law, and the obstacles to expansion of renewable energies are to be removed, including the 52GW cap on supported photovoltaic capacity, said the environment ministry.

But the list of measures seems unconvincing.

"The renewable energy decisions are not sufficient to reach the 2030 targets. The government coalition parties have absolutely failed in a breakthrough," said Marie-Luise Wolff, president of BDEW, the German energy and water federation.

The offshore wind cap is to be raised from 15GW to 20GW by 2030.

Onshore wind continues to be held back by the insistence of chancellor Angela Merkel's CDU party on fixing the minimum distance between wind turbines and residential housing at 1,000 metres.

This move will "massively cut back the area available for wind energy", said the BEE.

"It will throw regional and federal state planning [for wind energy] into chaos and endanger the whole wind sector," said Hermann Albers, president of BWE, the federal wind energy association.

On implementation of the 1,000 metre rule, the regional plans setting priority regions for wind farms — based in most federal states on federal emissions protection legislation to protect citizens from noise and other problems — will have to be reviewed.

Already taking several years of preparation, the retake on the regional plans will cause more delay, and continue to hold down the already dramatically slow permitting rate for new wind farms for years into the future.

"At the wind summit with federal economy minister Peter Altmaier, an agreement was reached on speeding up wind farm permitting procedures," said Albers. "The blanket rule on distance to dwellings will have exactly the opposite effect."

Federal states and municipalities have an "opt-out" option to fix a shorter minimum distance, but this will be difficult to press for in view of the 1,000 metres written into the law, they say.

Bavaria's government has secured a continuation of its "10H" rule, setting the distance between turbines and housing at ten times the height of a turbine, which has already decimated onshore wind installations in the state.

In view of the additional planning difficulties, it seems unlikely the pledged new "regionalisation bonus" for improved regional distribution of wind energy expansion will be widely taken up.

As a small gleam of light, where planning does result in new wind farms, municipalities are promised a financial participation in their operation, which can be increased if they use the "opt-out" rule.

The conservative CDU and CSU parties are jeopardising the future of the wind sector, restricting a source of income for rural areas, and are provoking a dearth in green electricity that will bring security of supply problems for German industry, said the BWE.

"We are now looking to the knowledge and competence of the state administrations and their powers for change in the second parliamentary chamber.

"They know the local challenges, the demand for carbon-free energy, and are aware of the value chain effects. Without wind power, the energy transition will fail," said Albers. 

"The climate package is frighteningly lacking in courage and power... the proposed CO2 pricing is a bad joke," said Patrick Graichen, director of thinktank Agora Energiewende.

The proposed reduction in the renewable energy levy for consumers, to bring down Germany's high electricity prices, "looks like a typing error", said the VKU, the association of communal utilities.

The planned reduction, supposed to especially help families and small businesses, amounts to around €20 per year, it noted.

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