Wind Subsidy Cuts Could Thwart Germany's Renewable Energy Revolution
Germany's energy minister is expected to propose cuts to renewable energy this week, despite the country's standing as the leader in solar less than two years ago and its record-breaking day for wind power last month.
Leaked documents, believed to be prepared for a conference spanning tomorrow and Thursday, show that Energy Minister Sigmar Gabriel wants to cut aid for onshore wind turbines by as much as 20 percent in 2015, compared to last year's funding, Bloomberg reported. This comes about half a year after the country's former environmental minister said solar subsidies would be scrapped by 2018.
Gabriel says the cuts are necessary as Chancellor Angela Merkel tries to pay the costs associated with her plan to close the country’s nuclear plants in favor of renewables.
Photo courtesy of Shutterstock
Gabriel wants to limit wind-turbine subsidies to no more than 9 euro cents per kilowatt hour in 2015 and halt expansion to 2.5 gigawatts (GW) a year. Developers would get the current subsidies if their units are authorized before Jan. 22 and enter operation this year, according to the plan.
Though General Electric (GE) produces components for wind energy, a company official said he agrees with reducing subsidies for the industry.
“Germany should focus on innovation rather than subsidies and building," Stephan Reimelt, GE’s head of energy in Germany, said. "There is $230 million euros of [research and development] budget for this space and $20 billion euros of subsidies for renewables.”
As Europe's top economy, Germany maintains the goal of getting 80 percent of its electricity from renewables by 2050. Today, that figure is about 25 percent.
Germany was the world’s biggest solar market in three of four years 2009 to 2012. Solar installations dropped from 7.6 GW to 3.3.
“Expanding solar energy into a key pillar of the energy supply is key for climate policy and by now affordable,” Carsten Koernig, head of the BSW-Solar lobby, told Bloomberg.
Koernig is calling for gradual subsidy cuts, so the government doesn't “choke off” the market. Meanwhile, Sylvia Pilarsky-Grosch, president of Bundesverbandes WindEnergie, said the proposed cuts would put a halt to an "energy revolution."
"The acceptance (of renewable energy) by the people is enormous, the demand for 100-percent renewable power is growing," she said. "To successfully continue on the path ... we need a courageous policy," Pilarsky-Grosch said in a statement.
"The proposals of the minister of energy are going in the wrong direction. The energy revolution is liable to be thwarted."
Visit EcoWatch’s RENEWABLES page for more related news on this topic.
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By Naomi Larsson
For centuries, the delicate silver dove has been a symbol of love and fidelity.
Biodiversity and Habitat Loss<p>Their near extinction is a symbol of the <a href="https://www.dw.com/en/global-biodiversity-outlook-targets-extinction-summit-new-york-pledge/a-54932895" target="_blank">biodiversity crisis</a> in the UK, largely driven by habitat destruction. Britain is now one of the countries with the most <a href="https://www.wwf.org.uk/future-of-UK-nature#:~:text=The%20UK%20is%20one%20of,than%20half%20are%20in%20decline" target="_blank">depleted nature</a> in the world according to the World Wildlife Fund. Half its plant and animal species are in decline and more than <a href="https://www.rspb.org.uk/about-the-rspb/about-us/media-centre/press-releases/let-nature-sing-wales/#:~:text=a%20natural%20tragedy.-,Over%2040%20million%20birds%20have%20vanished%20from%20UK%20skies%20in,unaware%20of%20the%20impending%20danger" target="_blank">40 million birds</a> have vanished in just half a century.</p><p>"[Turtle doves] are the canary in the [coal] mine because there are all these other species before it and after it," said Tree. "It's an umbrella for all the other species that are heading that way."</p><p>Turtle doves migrate south through Europe to sub-Saharan Africa between July and September, ending up in dry woodland and farmland areas of countries like Mali and Senegal for winter. </p><p>Droughts in West Africa and the Sahel region are believed to have contributed to the fall in turtle dove species recorded in northern Europe, with low rainfall reducing supplies of the seeds and insects the birds rely on for energy for the long journey home.</p>
Conservation and Farming<p><a href="https://www.operationturtledove.org/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Operation Turtle Dove,</a> a partnership project of charities including the Essex Wildlife trust, works with landowners and farmers to actively build turtle dove habitat.</p><p>Outten works with <a href="https://www.ebws.org.uk/birdsites/blue-house-farm-ewt-north-fambridge" target="_blank">Blue House Farm</a>, a 660-acre nature reserve in the UK county of Essex, where they have replicated weedy fallow plots. </p><p>"We work on it every year to make sure it's in the condition it needs to be with plants such as clovers and black medic," Outten said. "These plants are native to the landscape and produce the seed the birds feed on." </p><p>The birds eat a wide range of seeds from various plants that would have been abundant 50 or 100 years ago, added Guy Anderson, program manager for species recovery with The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB). </p><p>"But it's simply true that with the gradual process of <a href="https://www.dw.com/en/farming-without-pesticides-how-can-we-make-agriculture-greener/a-52216796" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">intensifying our agricultural production</a>, the availability of those seeds has dropped and dropped," said Anderson.</p><p>Part of the project includes supplementary feeding — providing sources of food in the form of seed or grain. Under the Countryside Stewardship Scheme in England, farmers can receive financial support to create a turtle dove habitat. </p><p>Though they haven't recorded an increase in doves across the sites in the four years of working on the project, Outten said they are seeing improvements in how landowners and farmers manage habitat for the birds. </p>
A Turtle Dove Haven<p>The 3,500-acre Knepp Estate in West Sussex is another project taking a different approach and one of the few places where turtle dove numbers are increasing.</p><p>Isabella Tree and her husband Charlie Burrell converted their intensively farmed land into a rewilding project almost 20 years ago. They have let the land return to nature.</p><p>Just one year after they'd finished <a href="https://www.dw.com/en/uks-most-talented-architects-are-not-human/a-35952128" target="_blank">rewilding</a> the southern part of their property, they heard turtle doves for the first time. It's now a breeding hotspot for the birds with an estimated 19 pairs. Knepp is also home to <a href="https://www.rewildingbritain.org.uk/rewilding/rewilding-projects/knepp-estate" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">2% of the UK's population</a> of nightingales. </p><p>Tree is critical of supplementary feeding schemes that, in her view, are short term. She questions the chances of turtle doves getting to feed on scattered seeds before other mammals eat them first.</p>
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