Dusseldorf Despite positive developments, the expansion of wind and solar energy capacities is still far too slow, criticize industry participants at the Handelsblatt Energy Summit in Berlin. Lengthy approval procedures are still the main problem. Lower Saxony’s Environment Minister Christian Meyer (Greens) proposes a “climate priority in the authorities” as a countermeasure.
With 6,400 installed wind turbines, Lower Saxony is the front runner among the German federal states. Lower Saxony also leads the list by far for the new permits in 2022. However, according to the Environment Minister, growth there is also being slowed down by bureaucracy.
Meyer demands: “If we can build an LNG terminal in Germany in 192 days, then it must also be possible for a wind turbine to be approved in a year.” The federal and state governments would have to “insert approval and construction turbo”.
Green electricity is becoming a location factor
Because without sufficient electricity from renewable sources, Germany will not only miss its own climate targets. Green electricity is also becoming an increasingly important location factor. In a survey by the Sun & Wind Belt business initiative, 70 percent of the 249 companies surveyed named the availability of renewable energy as an important criterion.
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The electricity producers are adapting accordingly: East German Leag has announced that it will produce as much electricity from solar and wind energy in 2030 as it does from lignite today. For this purpose, a giga solar park is to be built in Lusatia for an estimated 600 million euros.
“We have huge space potential,” says Leag CEO Thorsten Kramer. The scenario of phasing out coal has already been agreed: “It’s in the drawer.”
Solar start-up Enpal: “We are not very good at solving bureaucracy in business”
However, not only large corporations like Leag want to take advantage of the boom in renewables. The start-up Enpal is benefiting from the sharp increase in demand for solutions for the home, such as balcony power plants, and was recently able to double its own valuation to 2.25 billion euros.
The Berlin “Einhorn” rents solar systems directly to consumers and, according to its own statements, employs 1,000 permanent craftsmen. The company’s chief brand ambassador, Wolfgang Gründinger, says that the bottleneck in specialist staff has been under control so far.
However, the bureaucratic backlog in Germany’s authorities is also slowing down the start-up: “We employ 70 people alone who do nothing but fill in grid connection requests from morning to night,” says Gründinger. “We can’t solve this bureaucracy that well from an entrepreneurial point of view.”
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Enpal obtains its solar modules from Chinese production. Because there is hardly any production in Germany itself. “We once had a solar industry in Germany, which we abandoned and preferred to build Nord Stream 2, while China ramped up its solar industry,” criticizes Gründinger.
With 300 gigawatts of installed capacity, China not only generates the most solar power in the world, but also produced photovoltaic modules with a total capacity of 182 gigawatts in 2021. Across Europe, it was only 8.1 gigawatts. Accordingly, 90 percent of the solar modules installed in Germany come from China. Lower Saxony’s Environment Minister Meyer is therefore calling for the domestic solar industry to be expanded in order to benefit locally from larger parts of the value chain.
However, Meyer also warns of “new dependencies”. Stefan-Jörg Göbel from the energy company Statkraft also sees a danger if industrial and energy policy are mixed up: Because the international division of labor is overall “more of an advantage for the energy transition”. After all, modules produced in China can already be installed in Germany.
Gunter Erfurt, CEO of the Swiss solar cell manufacturer Meyer Burger, criticizes the one-sided additional costs incurred: “We pay punitive tariffs for this, while China imports duty-free.”
In view of the political conflicts in the country, such as Beijing’s ongoing threats against Taiwan, the current dependence on China for solar energy is also considered to be extremely risky.
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