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German government coalition agreement removes key hurdles to renewables rollout

Germany’s governing parties have ended months of wrangling over the future course of renewable energy expansion in the country by agreeing on minimum distance rules for wind power and abolishing a cap on solar power support. The agreement removes key hurdles to the renewables rollout seen as necessary for reaching the country’s climate targets. The compromise by chancellor Angela Merkel’s CDU/CSU alliance and the Social Democrats (SP) now largely leaves it to the country’s 16 states to decide whether they want to introduce such minimum distance rules of up to 1,000 metres from residential areas or allow construction at shorter distances. The support cap for solar power, on the other hand, would “promptly” be removed altogheter.

“Today is a good day for the energy transition, for climate action and in terms of an important economic contribution to overcome the coronavirus pandemic,” said economy minister Peter Altmaier at a press conference.

German environment minister Svenja Schulze told Spiegel that the agreement is a milestone that paves the way for the country’s coal exit. In a message on Twitter, the minister said the deal “will give renewable energies the necessary boost.”

The dispute about wind power distance rules and the solar cap had been going on already for several months before the coronavirus crisis further slowed down the legislative progress. Resolving both hurdles is key to enabling Germany to expand renewables to reach the government’s target of 65 percent in power consumption by 2030, laid out in the 2019 climate package.

Expansion of onshore wind power, the German energy transition’s most important power generation technology, fell to the lowest level in 20 years in 2019, mainly due to regulatory hurdles and local opposition. To ensure more acceptance by residents, the government’s climate cabinet last year had decided to introduce minimum distance rules from the nearest settlement and provisions that allow municipalities to receive part of the profits from wind parks. But critics immediately said the introduction of a nationwide minimum distance rule for wind turbines would have brought expansion to a standstill and would endanger the energy transition.

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