14.12.2021 | Is the new German government putting the expansion of renewables ahead of species protection?

Coalition wants significant expansion of renewables

Eberhard Röhm-Malcotti

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The German traffic light coalition wants to remove "all hurdles and obstacles" to the expansion of renewable energies. In this context, legal certainty for project initiators with regard to species protection is to be strengthened. In Switzerland, various initiatives are pending in parliament that want to give the expansion of renewable energies priority over other interests that are protected by law.

For the expansion of renewable energies in Germany, among other things, the grid expansion is to be driven forward, the authorities responsible for approvals are to be effectively relieved by the use of external project teams, and the planning and approval process is to be significantly accelerated. When weighing up the protected interests in the approval process, the traffic light coalition wants to ensure that there is a time-limited priority for renewable energies until climate neutrality is achieved.

The traffic light coalition (SPD, FDP, Greens and FDP) plans in particular to strengthen the legal certainty of project initiators in the approval process with regard to species protection. One can be curious about the concrete implementation.

Weighting interests in Switzerland

In Switzerland, a national interest in the expansion of renewable energies is enshrined in law. The federal parliament wanted to ensure that projects are treated equally with other interests, such as landscape protection, in the approval process.

In practice, however, the balancing of interests proves to be difficult. In each individual case, a decision must be made as to which interest prevails. This requires extensive clarification. The decisions of the licensing authorities can be appealed and, in the most extreme case, the appeals can be taken all the way to the Federal Supreme Court as the court of last resort. This delays projects and the energy transition in Switzerland. For this reason, various motions are pending in parliament that want to give the expansion of renewable energies priority over other interests protected by law.

In December 2021, the Round Table on Hydropower defined criteria for the difficult balance between protection and utilization and adopted a list of 15 concrete projects to increase security of supply in winter. Axpo also supports the jointly developed direction. However, it is also clear that there is still a long way to go before the energy turnaround is achieved, and all those involved must show a willingness to compromise.

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