New German Government must make wind energy a top priority again | WindEurope
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New German Government must make wind energy a top priority again

On 26 September Germany will elect a new Parliament. The election will mark the end of the 16-year reign of Chancellor Angela Merkel (CDU). Regardless of the outcome of the election, WindEurope, the German Wind Energy Association (BWE) and VDMA Power Systems call on the new Federal Government to acknowledge the central role of wind energy as the backbone of the German energy system and to remove the existing obstacles to wind energy expansion.

Exactly one month before the German parliamentary elections, WindEurope and the German wind energy associations BWE and VDMA Power Systems are calling upon on Germany’s political parties to make climate protection and the transition to renewable energies central to the next 4 years. The accelerated expansion of wind energy is imperative for climate protection and beneficial to Germany’s economy, argue the industry associations.

While the expansion of offshore wind energy in Germany is taking shape with the new regional development plan, onshore wind energy is treading water. But Germany needs to install 5-6 GW of new onshore wind energy capacity each year to deliver on its national and European climate commitments.

The EU increased its greenhouse gas emissions reduction target from 40% to 55% by 2030. On the back of that, the European Commission has now proposed a whole set of changes to EU climate and energy policy to deliver the 55% target, the so-called “Fit for 55” package. As part of that the Commission proposes raising the renewables target from 32% to 40%. This entails Europe expanding its wind energy capacity from 180 GW today to over 450 GW by 2030, with most of this coming from onshore wind.

WindEurope, BWE and VDMA Power System urge the next German Government to actively support the EU Commission’s “Fit-for-55” proposal in the upcoming negotiations on it in the EU Council of Ministers. And to ensure that Germany contributes to meeting the higher renewables target and expands wind energy accordingly.

Above all the Government needs to get things in order on onshore wind. After strong additions in the years 2014-2017, the expansion of wind energy slumped in the years 2018-2020: In 2017 Germany installed over 5 GW of new wind energy capacity; But in 2019 it’s only been 1 GW.

The main problem is the lack of new sites for wind farms and a significant decline in permits for new projects. Complex approval procedures, red tape and delays in the awarding of permits led to a decline of over 60% in the number of permits issued after 2016. Legal uncertainties don’t help either – they mean that even those projects that get a permit are then challenged in court.

The current federal Government presented an 18-point task list in 2019 to accelerate the approval procedures. But many of the points in the plan have still not been implemented. Approvals have increased slightly: in the first half of 2021, more than 1.5 GW of new wind farms got new permits. But this is still far too few to deliver the growth needed to meet the targets. The number of new permits needs to double to around 6 GW a year.

At the same time the new Government will urgently need to present a repowering strategy. By 2025, up to 16 GW of existing wind farms will reach 20 years of life. It is crucial to maintain as many of these sites as possible for wind energy generation. The Government should optimise zoning plans, remove obstacles such as the 10H distance rule in Bavaria and establish fast-track permitting procedures for repowering projects.

All of this will help Germany meet its climate and energy goals. It will preserve Germany’s wind industry jobs and hopefully increase them. And it will support investments that will generate economic activity and help drive Germany’s post-COVID recovery. Crucially, Germany’s leading industries such as chemicals, automotive and steel want more wind energy to support their own ambitious plans for decarbonisation and to transform how they operate. And German consumers more broadly want to know that when they switch to electric cars and electric heating that it’s renewable electricity.

All this will lead to a strong increase in electricity demand. Alongside our other core asks, WindEurope, BWE and VDMA Power System call on the new government to present a revised calculation of Germany’s future electricity demand.

Giles Dickson, WindEurope CEO, says: “Whatever the election result, the next German Government needs to give wind energy top priority again. The EU wants wind to be half of Europe’s electricity by 2050. That requires a massive expansion of onshore and offshore wind. This is great for Germany, given the strength of the German wind industry. And it’s great for other industries in Germany too – so many companies in chemicals, steel and automotive now want to decarbonise with renewable electricity and renewable hydrogen and are telling us they want more wind farms. It just needs urgent action to simplify the permitting of new wind farms and the repowering of existing ones. A new Government is a perfect moment to do that.”

Hermann Albers, Bundesverband WindEnergie (BWE) President, says: “In four weeks Germany will elect a new Bundestag. In just two weeks the German wind industry will meet at HusumWind. Here we will show that the innovative industry is ready for a new start. The new federal Government must go on a communication offensive from day one. The federal and state governments together with the municipalities must work together to find binding agreements. There needs to be swift legal support for the provision of new sites, faster permitting, a bold programme for repowering and reforms to the current species protection schemes. And by the middle of the legislative period, the next federal Government will have to clarify the market design for the new CO2-free, renewable energy economy. Our industry stands ready and is looking forward to the federal elections with great confidence.”

Matthias Zelinger, VDMA Power Systems CEO, says: “The German and European climate targets were tightened up before the end of this legislative period. At the same time, the industry is taking its own steps towards climate protection. One thing emerges from both: green electricity is becoming a competitive advantage, attracting companies and businesses. The next federal Government must therefore quickly set the course for a faster and significantly greater expansion of wind energy. Germany can then once again become the leading market and centre of competence for wind energy in Europe. Obstacles must be removed on the implementation side. We must, for example, improve the conditions for heavy transport to ensure the smooth delivery of wind turbines to the installation sites. In addition, the Government should continue to foster innovation with good conditions for pilot projects. We don’t need higher targets; we need more projects.”