German parties end row over onshore wind turbines, lift solar energy cap

FILE PHOTO: Power-generating windmill turbines are pictured during sunset from the Drachenberg hill in Berlin, Germany, August 19, 2019. REUTERS/Fabrizio Bensch

BERLIN (Reuters) - Germany’s ruling coalition reached a compromise deal in a row over the minimum distance onshore wind turbines should have from dwellings, leaving the final decision to regional governments and lifting a cap on solar energy, officials said on Monday.

Wind power is one of the most important drivers of Germany’s transition to renewable energy, but Europe’s largest economy saw a sharp fall in the number of new onshore wind turbines installed last year.

Business groups have warned that the government’s target for green energy to reach 65% of electricity production by 2030 could be missed if the current rate of turbine growth continues.

Environment Minister Svenja Schulze welcomed the deal struck by the parliamentary groups of the three parties ruling together in Chancellor Angela Merkel’s coalition government. “This will give renewable energies the necessary boost,” she said.

Under the deal, the federal government will leave final decisions on rules governing the minimum distance between homes and wind turbines up to the 16 state governments, clearing the way for local solutions, Schulze said.

In addition, a cap on state support of solar energy is lifted, which paves the way for the installation of more rooftop solar systems in Germany, the minister said.

Economy Minister Peter Altmaier said the existing national cap of 52 GW on the capacity of solar energy installations stemmed from a time when solar panels were much more expensive.

But prices have fallen drastically over the past years, Altmaier said, adding that this contributed to the cap being approached quickly by the expansion of solar rooftop systems.

That cap would have been reached later this year and that is why the government decided to lift it to enable a wider expansion of solar energy, Altmaier said.

Reporting by Michael Nienaber; editing by Thomas Seythal and Mark Heinrich