Germany, despite its claim to be a renewable energy leader, is not currently on track to meet its 2030 climate and energy targets. This week, the nation’s new Green Minister for Economics and Climate, Robert Habeck, presented a bold new plan for expanding onshore and offshore wind power. If successful, the plan would add up to 10 gigawatts of new onshore wind capacity every year for the rest of the decade. To put that into perspective, Europe as a whole installed 11.8 gigawatts (GW) of onshore wind in 2020.
To promote the plan, Germany intends to increase the number of onshore wind auctions and streamline permitting procedures for onshore wind. In total, 2% of Germany’s land area will be set aside for wind energy generation. In addition to onshore wind, the German government also plans to increase its offshore wind target to 30 GW by 2030.
During a press conference, Habeck made it clear that wind energy, particularly onshore wind, will remain the most important source of electricity in Germany and is the key to further emission reductions, according to WindEurope. “The Energiewende is roaring again. Germany wants a huge expansion of onshore wind. And the Government fully understands that that requires faster permitting of new wind farms — and they intend to deliver this ASAP with a dedicated new ‘Onshore Wind Law’. Today’s announcements mark the comeback of German leadership on renewables – fantastisch!“ says WindEurope CEO Giles Dickson.
Habeck intends to remove restraints on onshore wind development caused by concerns about radar installations for civilian and military aviation. He estimates the government plan could free up 4 to 5 GW of new wind projects currently blocked by aviation radar, and an additional 4 GW currently blocked by the military.
Support for renewable energies will be paid from the state budget, reducing the burden on low income households and small businesses. The package is also said to define the energy transition as a ‘matter of public interest’ in order to prioritize wind energy projects over other forms of land use — an important precondition to streamlining the permit process and finding new sites for wind energy projects.
Germany announces massive renewables expansion
Up to 10 GW per year onshore wind between now and 2030
— Mark Z. Jacobson (@mzjacobson) January 13, 2022
The government proposal will make sure the expansion of onshore wind does not come at the expense of environmental and species protection. Currently legal appeals against wind energy permits, often filed on the basis of Germany’s Nature Protection Act, are a major stumbling block for new projects. Habeck says there needs to be a rebalancing of the competing interests, one that reduces the amount of delay created by endless lawsuits. This new plan will require shorter and less complex permitting for new wind farms.
The German Wind Energy Association has consistently stated that just 2% of German territory would be sufficient to build enough onshore wind to meet Germany’s renewables targets. During the press conference, Habeck stressed that restrictive distance rules between wind turbines and residential buildings would be de-emphasized in order to reach the new 2% target. Habeck’s plans received positive feedback from many groups in Germany. The German Renewables Association even issued a statement calling it the start of a “new era of German climate policy.”
Now the hard work of getting the proposed new law enacted begins. Germany has painted itself into a corner by closing many of its nuclear power plants early, before there were enough renewable energy resources to compensate. It needs to move boldly and quickly to remedy that situation. The new onshore wind law will go a long way toward satisfying that need.