This is what Habeck’s immediate climate protection program looks like

A comprehensive package of measures is intended to promote the expansion of solar and wind power in Germany. Two percent of the country’s area should be available for this in the future. Resistance comes from Bavaria.

Lots of graphics in the luggage: Habeck presents its immediate climate protection program.

Reiner Zensen / Imago

There were a lot of graphics and diagrams that the new Economics and Climate Protection Minister Robert Habeck held in the camera to illustrate the situation on Tuesday: the development of greenhouse gas emissions, the energy mix, the expansion of wind power. In one point, however, they were all alike: Whenever Habeck tapped one of the curves with his finger, the gap between “there we are” and “there we have to go” was quite large.

If things continue as before, by the end of the decade Germany will have reduced its climate-damaging greenhouse gases by only 50 percent instead of the targeted 65 percent compared to 1990, said the Green politician. “That is then, expressed in numbers, 200 million tons too much.” Too few wind turbines on land, too few solar panels on the roofs, too much CO2-Emissions – one cannot blame Habeck in any case for artificially balancing the situation.

But it is easy for the minister to take stock – after all, the previous government was responsible for the failures – to catch up on the arrears, and he will now have to be measured against this. Habeck spoke of a “gigantic task” that now had to be mastered. Under Chancellor Olaf Scholz’s predecessor Angela Merkel, the government formulated ambitious climate protection goals – Germany is aiming for climate neutrality by 2045. However, she had no longer agreed on specific instruments for this.

Solar obligation for new commercial buildings

Habeck now wants to change that quickly. A large part of the immediate climate protection program agreed in the coalition agreement should pass the cabinet by Easter. The focus is on the accelerated expansion of green electricity. In order to achieve the output of 200 gigawatts of solar energy in 2030, an increase in the annual expansion to 20 gigawatts will be needed in the future, according to a ministry paper. For comparison: a nuclear power plant has an output of around 1.5 gigawatts per year. Habeck now wants to close the gap, among other things, by requiring solar energy for new commercial buildings. The disputed distances between wind turbines and weather radars, radio systems and military installations are also to be reduced. The government expects this to generate additional output of 7 to 9 gigawatts.

In view of the high demand for renewable energy, however, that is like a drop in the bucket. According to the Ministry of Economic Affairs, more than 100 gigawatts of onshore wind energy will be required by 2030. If one also includes the dismantling of older systems in the next few years, it would be more than a doubling of the currently installed capacity.

But the expansion of wind energy on land is considered particularly difficult. Resistance is forming in more and more communities if the fight against climate change is to begin on one’s own doorstep. Residents want to have the wind turbines out of their field of vision as far as possible, conservationists see problems with “blow risks” for red kites and bats, for example.

“Reconcile wind energy expansion with species protection”

The planning and approval of a wind farm often takes six to seven years. “This means that the ambitious goals of expanding renewable energies in power generation cannot be achieved,” said the managing director of the Wuppertal Institute for Climate, Environment and Energy, Manfred Fischedick, of the NZZ. In the future, species protection must be thought of in larger contexts and the priority should be more on population protection than on bird protection at individual wind turbine locations.

“Reconciling the expansion of wind energy with the protection of species” is what Habeck now also wants with the new “Wind on Land Law”. The targeted two percent of the land area, which is to be available for the construction of wind turbines in the future, should provide a particularly high level of explosive. Most of the federal states are far from it. This is also due to the rules for the distances between wind turbines and residential buildings, for which the federal states are responsible. It is the most controversial topic when it comes to expanding wind energy.

The 10-H rule in Bavaria in particular is controversial. It says that a wind turbine must be at least ten times its height from a residential building. Specifically, this means that if a wind turbine is 200 meters high, the residential development must be at least two kilometers away. This is a much stricter regulation than in other federal states.

Resistance from Bavaria

What the new minister thinks of this rule, he already revealed on Tuesday: “Wherever distance rules are in place in order to carry out prevention planning, they can no longer exist.” The answer from Munich came promptly: “The 10-H rule is not shaken,” said CSU General Secretary Markus Blume. The Bavarian regulation on wind power secure acceptance and ensure public participation.

Habeck admitted on Tuesday that the massive expansion of wind energy will lead to many debates. He wants to hold talks with the individual state governments by the summer. A new form of citizen participation should also ensure greater acceptance among the population: That means that you don’t exchange “paragraphs”, but look each other in the eye, said Habeck.

Habeck also has to persuade his core clientele. In the industry, one worries above all about the sharply rising energy and electricity costs, “which would increasingly threaten the existence of”, said the Federation of German Industry on the move. Habeck’s plan to finance the so-called EEG surcharge, with which renewable energies would be financially supported, from the federal budget from 2023, is a “first correct, but not sufficient step”. However, companies with high energy consumption are exempt from the levy anyway. The new regulation of the EEG surcharge should therefore primarily relieve the burden on private households and low-income earners.

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