Germany cuts red tape for offshore windpark firms

BERLIN Wed May 4, 2011 8:58am EDT

German Chancellor Angela Merkel flies in a helicopter over the Offshore Windpark Baltic 1 near the Baltic sea Peninsula of Zingst, May 2, 2011. REUTERS/Bundesregierung/ Guido Bergmann/Pool

German Chancellor Angela Merkel flies in a helicopter over the Offshore Windpark Baltic 1 near the Baltic sea Peninsula of Zingst, May 2, 2011.

Credit: Reuters/Bundesregierung/ Guido Bergmann/Pool

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BERLIN (Reuters) - Germany aims to cut bureaucratic red tape that can hold up the construction of offshore windparks by bundling and transferring all responsibility for their approval process to one state authority.

"This draft bill is a key first step toward a new energy concept by the federal government," transportation minister Peter Ramsauer said Wednesday.

In the aftermath of the Fukushima nuclear disaster, Chancellor Angela Merkel has been eager to shift her conservative party's image away from supporting nuclear energy, traveling to the Baltic Sea coast Monday to attend a ceremony marking the first operational commercial offshore windpark dubbed "Baltic 1."

Should the draft bill be approved by parliament, the Federal Maritime and Hydrographic Agency (BSH) would be the sole authority to decide on new windpark projects.

Previously, a state authority on nature conservancy was charged with reviewing the impact on fish and seabirds -- an examination that will now be demoted from a required separate approval to a simple position paper to be submitted to the BSH.

The simplification earned praise from the windpark lobby.

"The ambitious target of the federal government to install an offshore wind energy capacity of 10,000 megawatts by 2020 must not fail because differing authorities are jockeying for influence," said Hermann Albers, head of the German wind energy industry association BWE, whose 3,000 corporate members include Siemens, Vestas and Enercon.

The target capacity corresponds to the output from about 10 nuclear power plants.

"The industry requires clear and reliable approval processes," he said, adding that barriers to approval for windparks on land still needed to be removed.

(Reporting by Markus Wacket; Writing by Christiaan Hetzner; Editing by David Holmes)

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