Wind energy in the North and Baltic Seas could face a great future. The European Commission has only recently declared offshore renewable energy a long-term backbone of Europe’s electricity supply. The Brussels office expects to increase the installed capacity by 2050 from the current 20 to 300 gigawatts (GW). The federal government and the Bundestag increased Germany’s expansion target by amending the Offshore Wind Energy Act (WindSeeG) to 40 gigawatts in 2040. The Federal Council approved the law on Friday.
However, the formulation of goals is one thing, their implementation is completely different. The 40 GW target is subject to the condition that the next federal government must first establish a regulatory framework for it. The question of whether there is enough space on the high seas for many new wind farms is at least as difficult. Disputes include shipping, fishing, the armed forces, the extraction of raw materials and nature conservation. Marine areas for different purposes must be merged and identified in the North and Baltic Sea Spatial Planning Plan, which is being revised for the first time since 2009 by the Federal Maritime Transport Agency (BSH) on behalf of the Federal Ministry of the Interior (BMI).
At the end of September, BSH published the first draft of the plan, which has been in full swing since then. With this proposal, the authority implements the current requirements of the federal legislature one on one. 40 gigawatts of offshore wind are squeezed into the background of this area with great difficulty, without compromising most traditional uses. There are only restrictions on nature conservation by opening up areas such as the Dogger Bank in the North Sea, which environmental groups say should be left without wind energy. “We’re falling in the back,” complained Kim Detloff, Nabu’s head of marine conservation, in an interview with Tagesspiegel Background. Permanent conflicts between nature and climate protection are pre-programmed, as is the case with onshore wind energy.
Conservationists criticize this approach
Nabu asked to turn the tables and first look for areas to expand wind energy – before deciding on new expansion targets. The fact that politicians have decided otherwise has now turned protectors against them. In an open letter to Interior Minister Horst Seehofer (CSU) and cabinet colleagues Petr Altmaier (CDU) and Svenja Schulz (SPD), Nabu criticizes that the interim target of 20 gigawatts by 2030 can only be achieved in a legally safe and environmentally sound way if a cumulative cumulative pressure on species and habitats is greatly reduced by other recovery interests. The long-term expansion of wind energy must be based on marine load limits, which must be set immediately.
Much more wind energy is expected to come from the Baltic and North Seas in the near future. Photo: dpa
According to a joint statement by the environmental associations Nabu, DUH, Greenpeace and WWF, the draft BSH plan does not meet the poor state of the North and Baltic Seas or the EU’s requirements for the protection of the seas. The European Commission’s new regulation on the sea area, within the meaning of the European Commission’s “Green Agreement”, gives real priority to the protection of the seas. Nature reserves should not be covered by economic use, while priority areas for shipping, wind energy and the like have an exclusionary effect for other uses. Wind turbines should maintain a minimum distance of ten kilometers from protected areas.
The Federal Ministry of Economics (BMWi) takes a completely different view. The ministry said in a statement that the proposal must clearly emphasize the importance of offshore wind energy, which should be at the forefront and given the highest priority. With regard to the green agreement, more than 40 gigawatts are “absolutely necessary”, which must be reflected in the proposal. The Federal Ministry of the Interior and BSH should submit proposals. According to a study by the Fraunhofer Institute IWES for the semi-public offshore wind foundation, the German North and Baltic Seas offer a potential of 57 gigawatts. Nabu considers 25 gigawatts to be possible, the Bund für Umwelt und Naturschutz Deutschland (BUND) only 15.
Conflicts of use also arise from the extraction of oil and natural gas
BMWi relies on the principle of shared use due to the growing lack of space. The compatibility of parts of the Doggerbank nature reserve with wind energy should be examined in in-depth environmental assessments, as “nature conservation goes hand in hand with climate protection”. In a statement, the Bundeswehr also notes the ministry responsible for energy supply: “The explicit exclusion of offshore wind energy in military training areas must be avoided and cannot be accepted.” 40 gigawatts would not be possible without such joint use. achieve.
Conflicts in use also arise from the fact that the zoning plan, despite climate protection and the energy transition, still identifies oil and gas production areas. The few drilling companies that still operate there cannot be easily relocated. But politics can be creative and “buy back” companies, suggests Detloff of Nabu. The necessary compensation is more like “pocket money” compared to the billions the federal government pays to energy companies during coal decommissioning.
Oil rigs also take up space in the sea. Photo: picture alliance / dpa
The use of the important main transport route 10, which restricts the exclusive German economic zone in the North Sea, for other purposes is also being discussed. This should allow for stronger shipping management at EU level. Part of the waterway is to be reserved for fishing until 2035, after which it will also be open to wind energy. At least the governments of Germany, the Netherlands and Denmark have declared this intention, which the wind industry has welcomed.
Maritime transport and fishing are above all a burden
When it comes to environmental associations, half of the North and Baltic Sea region should be completely without economic use. In this way, he sees the main pressures on the marine environment in the area of fishing and transport. In its strategy at sea, the European Commission proposed increasing the share of nature reserves in line with the EU’s biodiversity strategy from eleven to 30 percent. One third of this should be strictly protected, ie without human influence. So far, this only applies to one percent of areas. According to the European Commission, only three percent of Europe’s marine area is needed to produce 300 gigawatts of offshore wind energy.
The Ministry of the Interior, which would be responsible for national implementation, is skeptical of these “zero-use zones.” Binding exclusion in spatial planning is only possible to a limited extent against the background of international and national law, the Federal Ministry of the Interior said in a parliamentary response to the Greens in the Bundestag.
In the last few days, BSH has explained its draft plan to the public at an online conference. According to BMI, a renewed consultation on possible changes to draft documents is planned for the beginning of next year. At the end of March, EU countries must submit their spatial plans to the European Commission. In the third quarter of 2021, the Ministry of the Interior intends to legislate the German zoning plan as a legal regulation. Parliamentary debate on the proposals is not planned.