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Uncertainty over new energy minister Sigmar Gabriel
1 November 2005
Germany has a new environment minister set to take over the renewable energy portfolio in the new national government. The good news for the wind industry is that Sigmar Gabriel is from the renewables-friendly Social Democrat side of the grand coalition of right and left wing parties that have agreed to jointly rule the country after September's election draw. But Gabriel's attitude to renewable energy is unknown -- and was a matter for growing speculation after his appointment last month. Green party politicians, now in opposition, have pointed out that Gabriel, a former premier of the state of Lower Saxony, has so far had extremely little to do with environmental matters. He is already saying the right things, however, at least in the view of renewable energy supporters. On the day of his nomination, he categorically stated there would be no reversal of the nuclear phase-out law, indicating continued support for a key policy of the former Social Democrat/Green party coalition government. It remains to be seen whether he is just as keen on continued support for wind energy in view of the opposition to it blasting from parts of the conservative CDU, the party that leads the coalition with the SPD and the Bavarian CSU. Top of Gabriel's to-do list might have to be a flying tackle at North Rhine Westfalia premier Jürgen Rüttgers of the CDU party who has initiated a building law amendment that would abolish the privileged status of wind turbines. Rüttgers' expressed aim is to prevent wind turbines being built in greenbelt zones unless there are exceptional circumstances for granting a building licence. In contrast, lignite coal and nuclear power stations would continue to have privileged status.
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