Johann Köppel is a full professor at the Berlin Institute of Technology (Germany) and head of the Environmental Assessment and Policy Research Group (www.umweltpruefung.tu-berlin.de). He specializes in impact assessments, and has been involved in the sustainable development of wind energy since more than a decade. He served in CWW’s scientific committees since 2011 and hosted the CWW2015 conference in Berlin. Current relevant research focuses on a horizon scan as far as ‘emerging issues’ for future research and applications are concerned.
A pioneer in transition: A horizon scan of emerging issues in sustainable wind energy development
The German wind energy community faces tougher competition, as it is undergoing a transition since 2017 from its convenient feed-in tariffs for renewable energy towards a market-oriented auctioning system. At the same time, we witness an intensified concentration of wind energy developments, which are causing a bottleneck concerning cumulative effects on both wildlife and social recipients. Wildlife even serves as proxy or plain alibi to better ground other but less regulated reservations. Thus, tighter markets on the one hand and seemingly ever less local acceptance indicate a transition status other wind energy pioneers might face sooner or later too. The identification and analysis of motives, arguments, and influence on attitudes and decisions in our community’s arena will be of prior interest in the years to come. Even with research evidence, blind spots just in the media seem persistent (think of the ascent of ‘fake news’ as well). How can we better bridge the science-practice gap? Power and interest shifts, e.g. the positive reframing of the fossil energy sector (e.g. via the new president’s administration in the US and the lignite coalitions in Germany) indicate that our efforts to reconcile climate and wildlife protection cannot just be taken for granted. Further issues involve, inter alia, unforeseen potential caps for wind energy development, triggered by so far less relevant considered but abundant species. The ongoing transposition of European Union’s ‘retrofit’ programme and ‘fitness check’ of its nature directives into national regulations only fuelled a long-standing debate on individual vs. population benchmarks of yet acceptable fatalities. Whether so far only prototyped and scarcely tested deterrence measures (e.g. via sound) can comply with legal prerequisites, opens up another discourse. Will ‘repowering’ actually achieve its promises, lessening wildlife impacts and increase local acceptance, is there sufficient empirical evidence available? Concepts and practice of increasing the socio-economic allocative fairness of wind energy development need to be cross-referenced, benchmarked and legally scanned on its potentials and shortcomings. To date (January 2017), we have conducted 35 semi-structured interviews highlighting the inter- and transdisciplinary approach of this feasibility study at hand, yielding an anticipated synopsis of emerging issues at the nexus of wildlife conservation and sustainable development. In September 2017 we hope not only to conclude together with the funding DBU Foundation and manifold stakeholders but discuss the findings with the distinguished audience at the CWW 2017.