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EU court’s bird protection ruling deals blow to German wind power plans

In a blow to Germany’s ambitious wind power expansion plans, the European Court of Justice (ECJ) has strengthened bird protection aspects in turbine construction, business daily Handelsblatt reports. The ECJ’s ruling contradicts a proposal by the court’s advocate general, Juliane Kokott, who had argued the safety of individual birds should no longer be the focus of jurisdiction, but instead entire bird populations. “There will be no relaxation regarding the future licensing” of new wind power projects, legal expert Johannes Schulte told the newspaper. “Each individual specimen will have to be accounted for and saving a [bird] population in general won’t be enough,” Schulte said.

Onshore wind power expansion in Germany has slowed down markedly in the past years, not least due to many projects being challenged in court by conservationist groups or local residents on animal protection grounds. Slow licensing and high regulatory hurdles mean that new wind projects may take up to five years to be implemented, if they get approval at all.

Germany’s wind power industry group BWE warned that the country’s goal of reaching a renewables share of 65 percent in power consumption by 2030 could not be achieved if the installed capacity does not grow. The industry group stressed that especially the modernisation of turbines at existing locations, the so-called repowering, should be eased by relaxing environmental standards and construction law.