The second annual report of the Federation-Länder Cooperation Committee on the state of expansion of renewable energies in Germany has been published. It can be accessed (in German).
The Federation-Länder Cooperation Committee was established with the Renewable Energy Sources Act and comprises the Federal Government and the Länder. It is tasked with publishing an annual report on the state of expansion of renewables in Germany. The committee’s comprehensive report is based on annual reports from the 16 Länder on the status quo in terms of renewable energy expansion, as well as designated sites and planning and approval processes for onshore wind. As the committee’s second report mainly covers 2021, the legislative measures adopted in 2022 to accelerate expansion, which are to come into force from 2023, are not described. These include the regulatory improvements adopted in 2022, such as the introduction of the Wind Energy Area Requirements Act and the amendments to the Federal Building Code through the Onshore Wind Energy Act, the amendments to the Federal Nature Conservation Act and the major revision of the Renewable Energy Sources Act of July 2022.
Overall, the report makes it clear that, if the renewable energy expansion targets and climate targets are to be attained, there need to be more designated areas and more approvals, particularly for onshore wind.
The report makes the following key statements:
The expansion of renewable energies in Germany is being driven by the use of solar and wind power. In the Länder, the main increase in volume comes with photovoltaic systems and onshore wind energy installations. The increase in capacity for onshore wind energy in 2021 rose by around a fifth from the previous year, at 1.7 GW gross of newly installed capacity. For photovoltaics, the newly installed capacity, 5.6 GW in 2021, was about one sixth higher than the previous year.
As in previous years, there was a north-south divide when it came to the expansion of wind power and photovoltaics. Approximately three-quarters (1,254 MW) of the production-relevant new-build of onshore wind energy was registered in Lower Saxony, Brandenburg, North Rhine-Westphalia and Schleswig-Holstein. Almost half (2,784 MW) of the new photovoltaics capacity was recorded in Bavaria, Baden-Württemberg and North Rhine-Westphalia.
Going forward, all the Länder have agreed to push on with the expansion of renewables. However, there are still major differences when it comes to how and in what timeframe they intend to do so. The Länder targets for the expansion of renewables documented in the report were fixed before the national increase in targets stipulated in the revised Renewable Energy Sources Act. In the summer of 2022, in the Renewable Energy Sources Act, the legislator markedly increased the expansion targets for wind and solar power for 2030. The overall share of renewables in gross electricity consumption is to go up from 65% to 80%. In order to achieve these targets, we need to ramp up the rate of new-build.
The Cooperation Committee focuses in particular on the expansion of onshore wind energy and reaches the following key takeaways:
- When it comes to the designating of areas, there are visible differences between individual Länder and to some extent also between individual planning zones within a Land – in terms both of planning and of the size of the designated areas. In comparison to the previous year, the data on areas has improved considerably. On the reference day (31 December 2021), between 2,908 km2 und 3,270 km2 nationwide were legally designated for onshore wind energy. This corresponds to between 0.81 and 0.91% of Germany’s area.
- The committee also looked at the state of designated areas in the Länder in relation to the interim targets up to the end of 2027 pursuant to the Wind Energy Area Requirements Act. To achieve the nationwide interim target of 1.4% of federal territory in 2027, the currently designated area needs to more than double. While some Länder have already attained their interim targets, the majority need to designate further areas in order to reach their targets.
The picture is similarly very mixed when it comes to approvals for onshore wind energy within Germany. In 2021, a total of 4.5 GW of wind energy capacity was approved, an increase of around 1.2 GW compared to 2020. More than three-quarters of approvals in 2021 were granted in Brandenburg, Lower Saxony, North Rhine-Westphalia and Schleswig-Holstein. In the reporting period, applications for approval for wind power projects with capacity totalling approx. 2.2 GW were rejected or withdrawn. According to information from the Länder, applications for approval for wind energy projects with capacity of 8.7 GW were pending on the reference day (31 December 2021), considerably less than in 2020 (10.5 GW). All in all, the conclusion is that approval processes, too, need to speed up to keep pace with the increasing expansion called for by the 2023 Renewable Energy Sources Act. So there is still room for improvement in terms of the duration of approval processes. The average wait in Germany from the initial submission of an application to the licensing body until approval is granted is more than two years.