A wind of change is blowing in Germany. The general elections are held on September 26 and everything indicates that the new government will face a tough challenge to make the country’s climate neutral by 2045. as voted by law.
One of the main questions in Germany’s electoral battle is how the country can manage its energy transition. Major political parties back solar and wind solutions, but bureaucracy and angry locals are holding back the change. Bavaria is a good example.
Erich Wust works as manager of a wind farm in the district of Rhön-Grabfeld in northern Bavaria. He says that Germany’s energy transition is a political battleground with very slow permitting procedures and many legal actions filed.
Wind turbine opposition
Decentralized decision making has also added to these problems. For example, Bavaria introduced the 10-H rule whereby new wind turbines must be erected at a distance of at least ten times their height from the nearest housing unit. What Wust wants is for politicians to change the rules related to energy after the elections. “If we want to push renewables, we have to take our foot off the brakes. In particular, in Bavaria, we have to get rid of this 10-H rule as soon as possible. The 10-H is the reason why not a single one The permit for wind farms was presented in Bavaria in the last two years, “he exclaims.
But why is resistance to wind turbines so strong in rural communities in this area? Some locals say it is to protect birds or to stop exposure to potentially harmful noise, others mention land use conflicts. According to Hubert Warmuth, a municipal councilor for Wargolshausen, they can no longer designate land for the construction of residential areas due to the planning of two wind farms. Other residents are also concerned that wind turbines will drive down property prices.
Both the Green Party and the Conservatives want to allocate two percent of the country’s land to wind turbines. The Social Democrats and Conservatives also promise to cut permit processing times from six years to six months.
In Wargolshausen, an absurd administrative battle even took ten years to resolve and, in the latest judicial mishap, investors must destroy the foundations of modern low-noise turbines to replace them with outdated ones. According to investors, this has cost them six million euros.
Harald Schwarz, one of the investors in Wargolshausen wind farms, wants policy improvements regarding renewables. “Licensing authorities need faster processes and reliability for all parties involved because the energy transition is necessary,” he adds.
Raimund Kamm lobbies for renewable energy producers. He says that in the past, ruling parties were too closely tied to Germany’s coal lobby, slowing down the urgent review of the country’s energy policy. He expects a similar scenario in the next government. According to him, the “main interest of the current natural gas industry is to slow down the energy transition.” Kamm believes that the real culprits are politicians and their political games. He wants them to be singled out as climate polluters because “we cannot afford to lose another four years.”
Public awareness initiatives
Ebersberg is a rural district trying new ways to engage the public. The county held a public vote on installing wind turbines in a state-owned forest, away from homes. The store ‘energy agency‘was tasked with providing information to voters and organizing role-plays on how to reduce CO2 levels. This citizen consultation obtained a majority to support the wind farms there. According to Manuel Knecht, who works for the energy agency, without the wind farms, Ebersberg’s goal of climate neutrality by 2030 will not be possible.
Ebersberg has one of the largest working forests in Bavaria. Putting wind turbines there would take up a very small part. But some opponents, like Kerstin of the Society for the Protection of the Ebersberg Forest, do not accept the public vote and are preparing legal action. She is doing this to save honey vultures and several endangered species of bats like the long-eared gray bat.
She tells us that when “bats get close to the rotor blades, the low atmospheric pressure bursts their lungs.” Honey vultures also live in this forest and are rare and highly protected. Some pairs even breed there. Installing wind turbines would put them at risk of colliding with the blades.
However, other locals emphasize the importance of fighting a possible climate disaster. Lea Steiner and Soren Schobel They live near the forest and point out that it is a working forest. It was planted and is being used for economic reasons.
Lea participated in a district energy committee Develop proposals to make CO2 reduction objectives compatible with citizens. Their argument regarding the planned wind turbines is that the energy transition is a better contribution to the conservation of wildlife in general. She doesn’t want to save one or two bats, but entire species.
According to Soren, the 30,000 existing wind turbines in Germany are not enough. If the country wants to take the energy transition seriously, it takes twice or three times as much.
Solar energy space
We visited, Karl Schweisfurth, a local farmer who reminds us that the sun is also part of Germany’s renewable energy. You want to cover your barn with photovoltaic panels. The main political parties in Germany agree on the need for more solar energy, but disagree on how it should be managed and where to place the panels.
Karl argues that he has many buildings in which the panels could continue. Your neighbor is also in the same situation. Using your roofs would avoid placing the panels in the open landscape. They would just like some kind of compensation in return, 15 or 18 cents per kilowatt-hour would be enough for them.
The next government of Germany will decide on the future use of the land. Who will get what and for what purpose is in their hands. But one thing is for sure: an up-to-date and sensible legal framework is urgently needed for the energy transition to work.
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism