Germany’s ambitious 2030 goal of 80% renewable electricity will be determined by the new laws in place, the allocation of land, and the approval of more generous subsidy schemes in 2023.
As a result of a mid-2010s slowdown after an initial boom, the Energiewende lost some of its luster. A new government in Berlin, elected in 2021, vowed to change this.
During 2022, the government coalition agreed that the country should consume 600 terawatt hours of renewable electricity by 2030, 80% of its total. The laws designed to achieve this goal were drafted with great speed.
Government-funded research agencies were called upon to help German bureaucrats suffering from burnout and anxiety, as an energy crisis loomed. In January 2023, the regulations will take effect. We will see whether sufficient changes can be achieved during this year.
“We already need the trend in 2023, one [wind] turbine per day must become up to six per day,” explained Simone Peter, the head of the renewable energy lobby association BEE.
In order to produce the desired amount of electricity, the government aims to install 115 Gigawatts (GW) of onshore wind capacity, 30 GW of offshore wind capacity, and 215 GW of solar photovoltaic (PV) capacity by 2030.
German onshore wind capacity reached 57 GW by September 2022, solar PV reached 63.4 GW, and offshore wind reached 8 GW, according to a monitoring report from 27 December.
A massive gap between reality and ambition remains. Eight years remain to double onshore wind, triple solar, and quadruple offshore wind.
At the heart of the government’s efforts are the overhaul of the renewable energy law (EEG) as well as a new onshore wind law and the offshore wind law, termed “the biggest reform in decades.” Renewables are now in the “overriding public interest,” limiting lawsuits against their development.
It is also expected that permitting, often cited as a key bottleneck, will speed up. It will be possible to build up to 18 MW of citizen-owned renewable energy projects and 6 MW of solar energy projects. It is possible for them to receive upfront funding support of up to €200,000 and be exempt from most administrative restrictions to aid their development.
As of 1 January, the government-subsidised price of onshore wind power will also increase by 25% in order to reflect higher wind turbine production costs and counter low participation in government renewables tenders.
“We are thus tripling the renewable energy expansion on water, on land and on the roof,” explained Sven Giegold, a senior public official and state secretary at the Germany ministry of economy and climate action.
Documents, however, paint a different picture than what the government portrays in public.
“The current momentum of new construction is still far from sufficient to move towards the target path,” the monitoring report from late December cautions. “2023 must be the year of implementation,” stressed BEE’s Peter in a statement made on 27 December.
In theory, everything is in place for Germany to get back on track towards a green electricity system by 2035. Yet, going into this crucial year, experts agree that the speed of renewables expansion is “significantly too low.”
The pace of solar PV expansion must triple over the next 12 months, according to their December report. Meanwhile, onshore wind expansion must almost quadruple compared to photovoltaics.
The expansion targets are set to increase yearly, before peaking in the second part of the decade. Should Germany fail to achieve its ambitions in the first and easiest year, its prospects could be gloomy.
Two regions will be on the watch list going forward.
By June 2022, wealthy Bavaria, Germany’s largest state to the south, had added an entire 1 GW of solar capacity. In 2021, it had added more than 1.5 GW.
“In 2021, new PV construction was still dominated by far by Bavaria,” the end-of-year government report reads. And the country is increasingly doing a U-turn on wind power, too.
It will also be crucial in East Germany. Saxony, Thuringia, and Saxony-Anhalt are comparatively lagging states, known for their strong support for the far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD).
It is estimated that more wind turbines were removed from Saxony than were installed in 2021, resulting in a net negative change in capacity. By June 2022, only one wind turbine had been installed in Saxony.
The situation in Thuringia and Saxony-Anhalt is similar. By June 2022, the two states had expanded their renewable capacity by 200 megawatts of solar. In the same period, Bavaria constructed 1,000 megawatts of solar capacity.
Vice-Chancellor Robert Habeck has traveled to all three states in an effort to foster goodwill. In Saxony, however, he was met with a chorus of citizens protesting EU sanctions on Russian gas.
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