German wind power draft bill faces mixed reactions

Wind park. Author: Santi VillamarĂ­n. License: Creative Commons, Attribution-NoDerivs 2.0 Generic.

June 14 (Renewables Now) - The onshore wind draft law, presented by Germany's federal government last week, was met with mixed reactions with some associations cheering the proposed legislation while others criticised some of its provisions.

Environmental organisation Germanwatch welcomed the proposed legislation, which is to be adopted by the Federal Cabinet on Wednesday, as a "major step to revitalising the expansion of onshore wind power".

The Onshore Wind Energy Act (WaLG) and the amended Federal Nature Conservation Act (BNatSchG) are meant to ensure the designation of 2% of Germany's territory for the use of wind power generation and to guarantee environmental protection.

Under the new law, the federal states must make between 1.8% and 2.2% of their area available for turbines. So far, only 0.8% of the country's area has been designated for wind energy, of which only 0.5% is actually used for this purpose.

Commenting on the law, Germanwatch's political director Christoph Bals called on politicians to define criteria to ensure that enough electricity can be generated in the selected areas in compliance with nature conservation standards.

Environment protection NGO Bund also cheered the draft bill. The proposed law could be a historic milestone in the energy transition as it guarantees that an average of 2% of the land area will be available for wind power generation and puts an end to "absurd" distance rules.

At the same time, the law must be tighter in order to guarantee that wind turbines will not be deployed outside of the designated areas.

According to Bund, the amendment to the Nature Conservation Act will have only a limited impact on the targeted acceleration of wind power expansion. The most important milestone is considered to be the introduction of programmes for species support.

Germany's wind energy association BWE is less enthusiastic about the planned law. The designation of 2% of the area seems to be positive at first glance, but its gradual implementation -- 1.4% by 2026, and 2% by 2032, is negative, according to BWE. The new law will require new planning processes which would take a long time, lead to considerable uncertainties and eventually cause delays, BWE added.

To solve this problem, the association pushes for the introduction of short-term measures within the current system to accelerate the planning process.

BWE also voiced criticism about the tight deadline that was given to associations to express their opinion on the draft bill. It is not a reasonable procedure to start a hearing about a complex new law on Friday afternoon and end it on Monday morning, BWE said on Monday.

The hasty formulation of the new legislation has drawn criticism also from the German renewable energy association BEE which fears that the new law would rather slow down the rollout of wind power than speeding up the process. The new legal terms and regulations introduced in the law also pose legal risks which could result in further delays.

In BEE's view, the changes to the Nature Conservation Act will make it impossible to meet the expansion targets as they create new hurdles for wind turbines.

The draft bill is said to have faced opposition from the government. The proposal was vetoed by the Ministry of Justice on Wednesday, news magazine Der Spiegel said last week without naming sources. This is a formal procedure which usually means that the state secretary of the ministry initiating the legislation will have to provide more clarity on certain issues before a draft law is passed to the Bundestag.

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