In an interview with EURACTIV.de, the president of Germany’s Wind Energy Association, Hermann Albers, speaks about the sector’s struggles, suggesting to allocate 2% of the country’s land for wind turbines.
Hermann Albers is the president of the German Wind Energy Association and vice-president of the German Renewable Energy Federation.
Germany’s last coal-fired power plant is supposed to close by 2038 at the latest, while 65% of the country’s electricity should be provided by renewable energies by 2030. Is this plan realistic given the current crisis faced by the onshore wind energy sector?
Last year, we built just over one gigawatt (GW) of new wind energy. That is only a fifth of what we would need for a successful energy transition.
With such figures, it will be impossible to achieve the German government’s climate targets and reduce carbon emissions, and we shall not be able to meet the climate targets set in the Paris agreement.
The ruling conservative union (CDU/CSU) recently tabled a proposal to unlock the debate over a new distance regulation for wind turbines. What do you think of it?
I am pleased that the conservative union has made this proposal. After all, they had blocked the debate by insisting on the 1,000-metre distance regulation between buildings and wind turbines.
The present proposal no longer talks about five houses that must be kept at a distance, but about development plans for settlement areas. We must examine in detail what this means.
Overall, we need a 2% quota of land area that should be attributed to wind energy, and that in all federal states. In many places, especially in Bavaria and Saxony, we are still a long way from this. Altmaier’s original proposal would have reduced the available area for new wind power plants by 40%.
We will now see whether the new proposal will ensure that enough land can be made available.
Given the numerous lawsuits against new wind farms in Germany, it seems that the industry is primarily suffering from a communication problem. Would limiting the rights of citizens to take legal action be the right way to go about things?
Of course, communication is an essential variable in the acceptance of wind energy. We need the government to communicate positively, instead of just talking about the costs of the energy transition.
Understandably, the dispute over distance regulations within the government creates uncertainty among the population.
Berlin must act with a steady hand and explain that the energy transition cannot be replaced in terms of climate policy and that it should be seen as an economic opportunity – also, and especially for rural areas.
It is no coincidence that the wind industry is finding new partners.
Only yesterday, BMW announced that it intends to convert its entire production to renewable energies this year. This shows that the industry is further ahead than the government. Companies are planning to fully decarbonise by 2035, while the federal government is still talking about 2050.
As far as approval processes are concerned, we want to ensure projects are not approved within five years, as is currently the case, but within only one year.
This requires the processes to be standardised, as well as fast reconciliation with the environment. And yes, in case of doubt, it should also be possible to streamline legal proceedings to one year.
Do you see environmental groups as partners or as an obstacle in the expansion of new wind farms?
The wind industry is demanding an expansion target of five GW to reach climate targets. Accordingly, we were pleased when the representatives of the environmental organisations even spoke of 7 GW at September’s wind summit.
Both sides are pursuing the same goals and must strengthen their alliance. Besides, wind power projects can even make a positive contribution to environmental protection through extensive compensatory measures.
You have called for an EU strategy to expand renewable energies. What should it look like?
The European market for renewable energies lies at 72 GW for the next four years.
We need an idea of how the markets will develop, how much renewable electricity we will need by 2030 or 2040, how many jobs will be created as a result and how we will open up new markets.
Also, how much do we want to produce in the EU or import from China, Vietnam or Malaysia?
A modern industrial strategy must have as its first objective the promotion of social agreements and market development in the EU and then see how world markets can be served.
Representatives of the federal and state governments will meet with the Chancellery on Thursday to discuss the future of wind energy. What do you expect from this meeting?
A decision to communicate energy transition positively would be desirable.
Besides, the Chancellor should press for the provision of the necessary 2% quota of land [that should be attributed to wind energy]. Climate protection also involves the federal states, which should not refuse to take on some responsibilities.
We also expect that the approval procedures will again be limited to a maximum period of one year so that we will still see a much more significant expansion of onshore plants in the coming years.
[Edited by Zoran Radosavljevic and Frédéric Simon]