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Germany's Altmaier defends wind distance rule as opposition grows

Highlights

All 16 state environmental ministers reject plan

Coalition agreed distance to housing rule

Onshore growth at standstill, outlook uncertain

London — German energy minister Peter Altmaier defended plans Friday to extend restrictions on the building of wind turbines near housing.

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The draft rule, to be included in the government's coal exit law, stipulates wind turbines cannot be built within 1 km of existing housing, or planned housing of at least five houses.

All 16 German state environmental ministers as well as federal environmental minister, Svenja Schulze, rejectedthe draft rule Friday.

In a statement published before the environment ministers met, Altmaier pointed to a thousand local initiativesagainst wind farm proposals, saying the energy transition needed local acceptance to succeed.

The distance rule has been put forward as part of Germany's 2030 climate plan, which seeks to boost offshore wind capacity by 5 GW to 20 GW, in part to offset the current malaise in onshore wind development.

Commentators described the draft coal exit law, leaked on Tuesday, as the "final blow" for onshore wind. The sector has lost 40,000 jobs since 2016.

The draft law extends the distance rule to planned housing projects of at least five houses.

New onshore wind capacity this year could remain below 1 GW for the first time since 2008.

Auctions for subsidized contracts have been severely undersubscribed this year with less than half the offered 3.7 GW of capacity awarded.

Altmaier said he hoped growth would return over coming months with some of the 5 GW of projects awarded via auction since 2017 proceeding to completion.

The government has downsized its 2030 onshore target from an initial 80 GW to 67 GW-71 GW, which would still yield some 145 TWh/year.

Together with more offshore capacity, German wind generation is set to double to 224 TWh by 2030, generating 39% of power for Europe's biggest economy.

Onshore wind has been booming over recent years with some 30,000 turbines amounting to 53 GW capacity currentlyinstalled.

Some 16 GW of first generation turbines are set to reach the end of their 20-year EEG contracts between 2021 and 2026.

Current permitting challenges could prompt operators to extend wind farm lifespans.

-- Andreas Franke, andreas.franke@spglobal.com

-- Edited by Jonathan Loades-Carter, jonathan.carter@spglobal.com