A fresh onshore wind

The Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy presented its work plan for strengthening onshore wind energy in October 2019. Almost one year on, many of the main measures have already been rolled out. Time to take stock.

Wind turbine from below© Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy/Holger Vonderlind

In September 2019, Economic Affairs Minister Altmaier met with the wind energy sector, environmental associations, trade unions and representatives of civil society initiatives to discuss ways to increase public acceptance of wind energy and to speed up planning procedures. The Economic Affairs Ministry followed this up in October 2019 with its work plan for strengthening onshore wind energy. It cites 18 specific measures and outlines where responsibilities lie at federal and Länder level. The measures will also help Germany to reach its target of renewables covering 65% of gross electricity consumption by 2030. An overview of the status of the work plan published at the end of August 2020 provides a progress report.

It says that, of the 18 measures in the work plan, 12 have been fully realised or are in the course of being realised. Six of these have been completed, and three are on the final straight. Three further measures can be realised in the revision of the Renewable Energy Sources Act, which is to be adopted before the end of 2020.

Six measures for a fresh onshore wind already in place

The six measures which have already been implemented include new distance rules for onshore wind energy installations; these were published in the exemption clause for the Länder in the Buildings Energy Act. This clarifies the scope available to the Länder in the stipulation of distances between wind energy installations and residential buildings. A new administrative provision for the “needs-oriented” night-lighting of wind turbines has been in force since 1 May 2020. It makes it possible for the flashing red lights on wind turbines to light up only when they are actually needed to warn air traffic. The Federation and the Länder also aim to cut the amount of red tape involved in the expansion of onshore wind: they agreed on 17 June 2020 on a swifter removal of impediments to planning approval. Also, authorisation procedures under immissions rules have been accelerated. To make sure that wind turbines can always be planned and constructed giving consideration to the natural environment, the cabinet has decided that a species protection website should be built up from 2021, providing information about flora and fauna in the relevant areas.

Three measures on the final straight

Three further measures in the work plan are already on the final straight: In the Investment Acceleration Act, the number of courts involved in appeals against authorisations under immission protection rules has been cut. The Investment Acceleration Act also aims to restrict the suspensive effect of appeals against planning approval for wind turbines. Also, the digitisation strategy is being consistently implemented and further developed, both in terms of the regulatory framework and in terms of technical standards.

These measures will be introduced via the revision of the Renewable Energy Sources Act

The revision of the Renewable Energy Sources Act is to roll out three further measures to strengthen onshore wind energy: the intention is that municipalities and citizens should enjoy greater financial participation. The building of new renewables facilities is to be steered at a regional level in order to avoid grid congestion. The coordinated revisions of the Renewable Energy Sources Act and the Federal Requirements Plan Act will also pave the way for a synchronised expansion of the grids and of renewable energy.