In line with the EU’s REPowerEU Action Plan, the expansion of renewables is now officially classed as a matter of "overriding public interest" in the Easter Package, paving the way for new onshore wind, which has faced tough permitting barriers in recent years
Increased offshore wind development - to 30GW installed capacity by 2030, 40GW by 2035 and 70GW by 2045, under the revised Offshore Wind Energy Act known as WindSeeG - and accelerated expansion of the country's grid network have also been given the federal green light as part of the package.
The Easter Package aims for renewables to supply 80% of Germany's electricity by 2030, with a target for net-zero energy supply by 2045. A proposed target for 100% electricity from renewables by 2035 was scrapped however.
WindLandG aims to double Germany's total installed onshore wind capacity to 115GW by 2030. That is expected to rise to 157GW by 2035 and 160GW by 2040. To achieve these targets, Germany will gradually increase annual onshore wind additions to more than 12GW by 2025. After 2025, it will install 10GW of new onshore wind each year.
To enable a sufficiently big pipeline of projects, WindLandG provides for improvements to permitting while the Easter Package includes amendments to the German nature conservation law to ensure the accelerated deployment of onshore wind goes hand in hand with nature and biodiversity protection.
WindEurope CEO Giles Dickson praised Germany's "huge level of ambition". He said: "10GW a year from 2025 is just what Europe needs to help deliver its energy security and climate goals. Germany understands you only deliver a big increase in wind if you simplify the permitting. Their new laws do that. They’re a big step forward.”
Challenges remain, however. Availability of sufficient additional sites for wind energy projects will be essential to delivering the increased volumes. Under the new law, German states (Länder) must set aside 2% of their territory for onshore wind. All states must achieve the 2% target by 2032, with an intermediary target of 1.4% by 2027. WindEurope says this is too late to deliver the 2030 target for 80% electricity supply to be from renewables.
"The ball is now in the court of the Länder which need to allocate sufficient sites and ensure streamlined planning and permitting," WindEurope said. Länder that are not able or willing to set aside 2% of their territory for onshore wind are now allowed to exchange up to 50% of their designated sites with overachieving Länder.
"In statistical transfers, they must buy these additional sites within the framework of state contracts. It remains unclear whether this mechanism will lead to a fairer distribution of onshore wind across Germany or to a further centralisation of onshore wind installations in the North of the country," WindEurope explained. "Bavaria, so far a laggard in onshore wind deployment, already announced that it plans to overachieve its target."
With 16GW of Germany's operating wind turbines due to reach the end of their lifetime by 2025, the role of repowering is also strengthened under the new onshore wind law. The new law specifically aims to keep existing sites for wind energy development, therefore allowing repowering projects to be developed. WindEurope said this is critical, noting that "only modern turbines will allow for the generation of sufficient renewable electricity on 2% of German territory".
The association also said "it is crucial that auction prices are fully indexed", given current international developments and rapidly rising costs for energy, international transport and raw materials. In this context, the association welcomed the Parliament’s decision to relax the two-year deadline that applied for building onshore wind turbines. "Disruptions to international supply chains had made it increasingly difficult for manufacturers and project developers to stick to the two-year deadline," WindEurope says.
Others have also raised concerns. The German Renewable Energy Association (BEE) called for "quick improvements". BEE President Dr Simone Peter said the Easter Package "must be supplemented in order to close the implementation gap".
Peter said: "The Easter package contains a lot of good things, but some measures still fall short to achieve the ambitious government goals. To switch on the expansion turbo and unleash all renewables, more space and simple processes are needed."
She was also critical of the deletion of the 2035 100% renewables electricity target in the EEG, which is associated with the end of EEG funding. “The federal government must present an alternative financing concept if it cancels the EEG refinancing instrument," she said.
A summer package of measures to speed up the energy transition is due. Hermann Albers, President of the German Wind Energy Association, BWE, said the industry has "high expectations'" for it. "In essence, it must be about implementing specific legal measures to speed up the approval process," he said.
A simple procedure for repowering is essential, Albers added. He said it would allow the installed capacity at a location to be tripled or even quadrupled without increasing the number of turbines. BWE sees a short-term potential of up to 45GW through repowering.
"The energy transition cannot wait any longer. We urgently need the announced simplifications in the approval procedures. Only then can the legislative measures already adopted be effective. Whether these simplifications come as a package or as individual laws is irrelevant. But we need the right laws, and we need them quickly," warned Albers.