German onshore action plan 'could revive market'

Swift implementation of a two-page action plan to increase public acceptance of wind farms and legal certainty for developers could boost the German onshore wind sector, according to the country's industry association.

The government unveiled the plan following a summit with industry last month (pic credit: Wikimedia Commons)
The government unveiled the plan following a summit with industry last month (pic credit: Wikimedia Commons)

However, a nationwide, 1,000-metre setback rule could jeopardise Germany's target of achieving 65% renewables penetration by 2030, according to the German Wind Energy Association (BWE).

Germany’s minister for economic affairs and energy Peter Altmaier unveiled a two-page 18-point to-do list to help the country’s onshore wind sector, following a crisis summit convened last month.

Specific details are vague, but the list includes plans to accelerate permitting for onshore wind projects by fast-tracking legal action over projects’ noise levels, restricting challenges to permit awards, and setting up a portal monitoring protected species to help developers.

It also includes plans to reduce the number of nighttime blinking lights to warn planes flying overhead and enable municipalities to benefit financially - for instance, through the levying of higher taxes on wind farms within their boundaries.

The government also plans to reduce the number of lawsuits against approved projects, and demand a dedicated frequency for telecommunications between renewables and network operators to help fully digitalise the industry.

The BWE’s president Hermann Albers said the action plan could revive the faltering German onshore wind market, but warned that setting the minimum distance between wind turbines and residential housing at 1,000 metres nationwide could hinder renewables expansion.

Albers added that the 18 points need to be implemented swiftly, and that states should exercise their option to opt out of this uniform setback rule and set their own.

The economic affairs and energy ministry intends to carry out the 18 steps between 2019 and 2020, according to the plan.

It held a summit between government and industry in September to discuss how to get Germany’s faltering wind power sector back on track.

Just 86 turbines were commissioned in the first half of 2019, compared with 1,800 in the whole of 2017.

Government data also shows that 21,700 onshore wind jobs were axed in 2017, while the value of German wind turbine production fell from €3.2 billion in 2016 to €1.58 billion in 2018.

More than 74% of workers council representatives at 31 companies representing 22,600 employees quizzed in union IG Metall’s annual survey expect the wind market in Germany to worsen in the coming months. Just 17% were this pessimistic in 2015 and 65% in 2018.

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