Northern states ring alarm bells on wind energy

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The northern German states fear for the future of the wind power industry. In a joint letter to Chancellor Merkel, they warn of an “existential crisis”.

The five northern German states fear for the future of the wind power industry and have therefore rung the alarm bells with the Federal Government. In a letter to Chancellor Angela Merkel, the heads of government of Lower Saxony, Bremen, Schleswig-Holstein, Hamburg and Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania asked for a consultation regarding the topic and presented an eleven-point plan.

The wind energy industry is in a dramatic situation, explained Stephan Weil (Lower Saxony, SPD), Andreas Bovenschulte (Bremen, SPD), Daniel Günther (Schleswig-Holstein, CDU), Peter Tschentscher (Hamburg, SPD) and Manuela Schwesig (Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania, SPD) in a joint press conference in Berlin.

Among other things, they demand a strong expansion of offshore wind farms, the privileged use of citizen wind farms, the exhaustion of all possible areas for new turbines, the development of the power grid, and the acceleration of approval procedures.

Is the future of the German wind industry at risk?

In the past three years, more than 40,000 jobs had already been cut, the Prime Ministers explained – “twice as many as there are total jobs in the lignite industry”. This, they argued, would lead to structural employment issues in Northern Germany and to serious energy and industrial policy problems throughout Germany.

According to the politicians, the expansion of onshore wind energy had practically come to a standstill this year – nationwide expansion had collapsed by 82 percent. If this development continued, there would be no more German wind power industry in the foreseeable future. However, they add, many of the plans currently being discussed in Berlin were counterproductive, such as a minimum distance of 1000 meters to residential buildings for all wind turbines.

It wasn’t only the expansion of wind power that was in danger, Weil pointed out, but even the entire industry. The reason, he explained, was that long approval procedures not only block new wind turbines. If old wind turbines were dismantled and replaced by new ones, the previous approval procedures would involve new, time-consuming tests – instead of just checking the new aspects such as a change in the height of the wind turbines.

Weil spoke of an “existential crisis” in the wind energy sector and called for a “restart of the energy revolution”. He warned that Germany would not achieve its climate protection targets without greater use of renewable energies. “Without renewable energies, nothing is possible in climate protection.”

Industry representatives criticise politics

Previously, the wind industry had repeatedly warned of a collapse of the industry due to the faltering expansion of renewable energies. The current and former federal governments had slowed down the expansion “with their wrong decisions and inaction”, said Wolfgang von Geldern, head of the Wirtschaftsverband Windkraftwerke. According to him, the planned minimum distance of 1000 meters, but also the requirements relating to air traffic and species protection, slowed down development.

“We are foregoing opportunities in major world markets in the future. We must stop this process,” said Hermann Albers, President of the German Wind Energy Association. Together with the wind turbine manufacturer Enercon, the energy supplier EnBW and the car manufacturer Volkswagen, the two associations called for five immediate measures against the crisis in the wind industry.

Industry sees great opportunities

They demand that the government immediately give up the planned 1000-metre distance, set standards for conflict resolution in species protection, reduce the minimum distance to rotary radio beacons used by air traffic control, designate two percent of the state’s land as priority areas and decouple the expansion of wind energy from grid expansion.

VW Strategy Director Michael Jost emphasised the economic opportunities offered by renewable energies. “Now is the time for Europe. Now is the time for Germany,” he said. Without green electricity to power them, he insisted, electric cars would make no sense.

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