Germany erupts at EU as red tape prevents green energy expansion: ‘Complex and difficult’

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The ministry of economy and climate protection is planning to rejuvenate Germany’s wind industry. Vice-Chancellor Robert Habeck announced earlier this week that he would reserve 2 percent of German land for onshore wind power via a “wind-on-land law”. This has been a longstanding demand of the wind power industry. WindEurope CEO Giles Dickson. said: “The Energiewende is roaring again. Germany wants a huge expansion of onshore wind.”

And Hermann Albers, president of the German wind association WindEnergie, welcomed the move.

He said that “a binding area target must be defined and implemented in all federal states”.

Now Berlin is seeking a record expansion to wind power rates, with plans to surpass the 2017 peak of almost 5 gigawatts (GW) of added capacity.

Mr Dickson said: “The Government fully understands that this requires faster permitting of new wind farms.”

But the EU is standing in Germany’s way.

As stated in the EU’s Birds and Habitats directive, EU states must prohibit a number of issues that wind power creates.

This includes “all forms of deliberate capture or killing {of endangered birds)”.

It also involves the “deliberate disturbance, e.g. during breeding, rearing, hibernation and migration”, as well as the “deterioration or destruction of breeding sites or resting places”.

And it has been argued that the fairly broad definition of what constitutes the “killing” of birds has already hampered Germany’s onshore wind power expansion.

Legal analysis commissioned by Graichen’s former think-tank, Agora Energiewende, states: “According to the current state of knowledge, wind energy projects pose an abstract killing risk, especially for large birds and birds of prey.”

As wind turbines could technically kill certain species of birds, this means that safety distances are necessary.

Agora Energiewende’s analysis says this makes planning processes “complex and difficult”.

WindEurope argues this obstacle warrants changes to be made in Brussels.

Christoph Zipf, press and communications manager at WindEurope, told EURACTIV: “The new German plans to accelerate wind development up to 10 GW of onshore wind per year could possibly require an amendment of the EU Birds and Habitats Directives.”

Mr Zipf added that an approach of introducing a species aggregate rather than an individual analysis could clash with the directive.

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It reads that in the interest of the expansion of wind energy, “it will be necessary to make greater use of the exemption possibilities provided by the European species protection law”.

But nature conservationists may staunchly oppose any push to alter the EU bird protection directive that is currently in place.

Raphael Weyland, head of nature protection at NABU, a German conservation NGO, said: “Overall, NABU opposes the opening of the Habitats and Birds Directives.”

Despite NABU supporting a clean energy transition, Mr Weyland said “this must not be at the expense of nature conservation: The nature crisis is just as existential as the climate crisis”.

The EU Commission found that the EU birdlife protection directives were “fit for purpose” only a few years ago.

Mr Weyland explained that the directives contain several exemptions that Germany could use more extensively to support wind power expansion.

This is also identified in Agora Energiewende’s analysis.

It reads that in the interest of the expansion of wind energy, “it will be necessary to make greater use of the exemption possibilities provided by the European species protection law”.

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