The German government launched a substantial reform package on Wednesday aimed at increasing renewable energy generation, meeting climate targets, and becoming independent of energy imports from hostile countries like Russia.
The Cabinet-approved 600-page “Easter package” lays out lofty targets for offshore power growth and considers renewable energy installation to be of “overriding public interest” — a trump card designed to speed up Germany’s sometimes slow bureaucratic processes.
By 2035, Europe’s largest economy hopes to produce nearly all of its power from renewable sources like wind and solar, more than tripling the present pace in only 13 years. However, due to complicated laws and changes in feed-in subsidies, the roll-out has slowed dramatically in recent years.
“In all, this package will result in a large rise in renewable energy,” Economy and Energy Minister Robert Habeck said in a press conference in Berlin.
After adding no offshore wind capacity in 2021, Germany’s new center-left government said in December that it will raise installed capacity from under 8 Gigawatts now to 30 Gigawatts by 2030 and 40 Gigawatts by 2035. 70 GW of offshore wind capacity is the target for 2045, when Germany aspires to achieve “net zero” greenhouse gas emissions.
The government has also set a goal of more than tripling onshore wind capacity to 115 GW by 2030, which will be achieved in part by lowering the minimum distance between radio beacons and weather radars. Solar’s objective is even loftier: by the end of the decade, it will have nearly quadrupled its current capacity to 215GW.
Habeck acknowledged the complexity of the undertaking, predicting that, owing to past mistakes, Germany will most certainly miss its short-term objectives for reducing greenhouse gas emissions.
“It’s a prerequisite, not a solution for everything,” he added of the new measures. More measures will be decided in the following months, with many of them requiring parliament’s approval before going into effect.
According to Habeck, the war in Ukraine would have an impact on Germany’s plans, with the country likely needing to utilize more local coal to fill the short-term gap produced by a fall in Russian energy imports.
Nonetheless, in recent months, the government has successfully reduced its purchases of Russian coal, oil, and gas, and plans to stop importing oil and coal from Russia this year, and gas by mid-2024, he added.
“You can see how quickly we’re moving away from Russian energy,” he continued.
The strong industrial lobby organization BDI in Germany applauded the new measures, but warned that meeting the objectives would be difficult.
Aside from renewables, Germany will need to boost its use of hydrogen and biomass energy to ensure power supply during periods when wind and solar power are scarce, according to the report.
Around a dozen environmental protestors fastened themselves to a nearby bridge leading to the German parliament and chancellery as Habeck revealed the new energy package to media.
Cornelia Huth, a biologist and member of the organization Scientist Rebellion, said Germany’s ambitions aren’t high enough to satisfy the 2015 Paris climate agreement’s goals, and that they should be even higher given the country’s large historical emissions.
Huth also urged the government to enact a number of “no-brainer” policies, such as a rule prohibiting food waste and a uniform speed limit.
Germany’s transport minister opposed the notion of even a temporary speed limit of 130 km/h (81 mph) on the Autobahn this week, claiming that the country lacked adequate signage.
Austria, a neighboring country, announced subsidies of over 300 million euros ($327 million) on Wednesday to help build more renewable energy plants.
The Alpine country is even more reliant on Russian gas than Germany, according to Environment Minister Leonore Gewessler, who claims that each wind turbine or solar power plant “liberates us from Vladimir Putin’s stranglehold.”