“De facto failure of the southern region” – expansion of renewables continues to falter

According to the onshore wind energy agency, the expansion balance for renewable energies in some federal states is still poor. In Bavaria, among other places, the expansion of wind power is not really progressing. In Thuringia, Saxony, Saarland and the city states of Berlin, Bremen and Hamburg, not a single wind turbine was connected to the grid in the first quarter of 2023. The German Wind Energy Association finds harsh words for this development.

According to a preliminary evaluation by the specialist agency, which was available to the dpa, the largest federal state in terms of area, Bavaria, is currently on a par with Baden-Württemberg in terms of wind energy expansion with 5 completed wind turbines in the first quarter of the year. However, other non-city states would have set up far more bikes in the same period: Brandenburg 17, Rhineland-Palatinate 7 and North Rhine-Westphalia 14. The front runners were Schleswig-Holstein with 29 and Lower Saxony with 22 systems. During this period, 117 new systems with an output of more than 546 megawatts were added nationwide – a total increase of 17 percent according to the specialist agency.

There is also a clear gap when it comes to plant approvals. Thuringia accounted for only 2.1 percent of the 295 permits granted nationwide in the first quarter, according to the figures. Only Saxony, Saarland, the city states as well as Bavaria and Baden-Württemberg did worse than Thuringia. According to the German Wind Energy Association, it takes an average of 20 months after approval, in the best-case scenario, for a new wind turbine to be connected to the grid. But it can also take several years.

The President of the German Wind Energy Association, Hermann Albers, commented on the development: “The increase in the volume of permits compared to the previous year is a good sign and is positive.” At the same time, however, he also made it clear that states such as Bavaria and Baden-Württemberg in particular have a problem: “The de facto failure of the southern region is an oath of disclosure for all those responsible in these federal states. A new awareness is urgently needed here to enable the expansion, otherwise the southern federal states are wantonly jeopardizing their economy.”

Bavaria’s Economics Minister Hubert Aiwanger (free voters) explained that there was also great interest in wind power in Bavaria. “We opened the 10-H rule last year and since the Ukraine war and the energy crisis there has been a boom in demand for hundreds of new wind turbines that we didn’t have before,” he said when asked by the dpa. Wind power was often not competitive with natural gas in the economy. However, the Bavarian municipalities are currently changing the regional plans for wind power. As a result, a lot will also be built in the Free State. He also explained that many regions in Germany are more profitable for the use of wind power than Bavaria.

Some of the figures for Bavaria can also be found in the state government’s response to a request from the SPD in the state parliament. “We mustn’t let any more time pass by now. To date, only 41 wind turbines have been built in Bavaria under the CSU-free voters’ coalition. That’s a disaster,” said parliamentary group leader Florian von Brunn. In the same period, 343 new wind turbines were installed in the much smaller state of Brandenburg. “The approval procedures in Bavaria must be massively accelerated and reduced in bureaucracy.”

The CSU repeated the argument of party leader Markus Söder that Bavaria is actually the leader in renewables overall. “This year, like last year, Bavaria is in first place nationwide when it comes to the expansion of renewable energies, and Bavaria is also in fifth place among all the federal states this year when it comes to wind power,” said CSU General Secretary Martin Huber. It takes a mix of renewables to create base load capability, not just wind power.

However, the country made no progress in expanding geothermal energy either. “Geothermal energy is at a standstill, although there is enormous potential for affordable and clean heat in southern Bavaria alone. In the current term of office of the Söder government, however, only two new geothermal plants have gone into operation. That’s far too few,” said by Brunn of the dpa in Munich. Without the involvement of local authorities, “in fact, nothing would have happened”.

Like the Greens, the SPD is also demanding significantly more money for the development of climate-friendly geothermal energy. “We need a geothermal turbo in the Free State instead of just pointing fingers to Berlin,” said von Brunn. The previous funds in the budget were not nearly enough. “We need at least 100 million euros in funding for this year and next. This is how we ensure an affordable and climate-friendly heat supply,” said von Brunn. The Greens presented a similar calculation a few weeks ago, pointing out that costs of around 15 million euros are to be expected per well.

“Researchers at the Technical University of Munich only calculated in December that up to 40 percent of Bavaria’s entire heat requirement could be covered by deep geothermal energy in southern Bavaria alone,” said von Brunn. In addition, there is considerable potential in northern Bavaria that has not yet been tapped at all. “We need investigations and drilling so that geothermal data for all of Bavaria is available to everyone. And of course in digital form. Why that hasn’t happened long ago is beyond me. In addition, geothermal priority areas must be identified, as with wind. “

Thuringia’s Energy Minister Bernhard Stengele (Greens) had named the lack of designated areas as the greatest obstacle to wind power expansion. Last year, the Thuringian ban on wind turbines in the forest was overturned. It is now expected that sites for wind turbines will be built on fallow land without trees, possibly also initiated by forest owners.

The Thuringian Ministry of Energy is currently working on a law that will give municipalities a share in the profits from wind turbines if they are on their land. Various models are being discussed for the Wind Power Participation Act, such as reduced electricity tariffs for citizens or money for municipal infrastructure. Stengele also hopes that this will increase acceptance of opening up new locations for wind turbines.

According to the energy minister, near-surface geothermal energy offers further potential for heat supply in Thuringia. There are currently around 30,000 such systems in Bavaria. “Geothermal energy, like solar thermal energy, which has a share of around eight percent so far, is a heat source that will be of greater importance in the future. Both still have great potential for expansion.”

The construction industry association and the Thuringia Chamber of Engineers had recently spoken out in favor of greater use of geothermal energy in response to rising energy prices. According to their assessment, Thuringia has suitable natural potential, qualified specialists and the technologies to make geoenergy available on a larger scale for the heat transition. Among other things, both organizations called for optimized approval processes and accelerated planning for geothermal projects.


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