Johann Köppel is a full professor at the Berlin Institute of Technology (Germany) and head of the Environmental Assessment and Planning Research Group (http://www.umweltpruefung.tu-berlin.de). He specializes in research and teaching on environmental impact assessment and co-authored comprehensive reviews on wind energy’s wildlife interactions. He served in all CWW’s scientific committees since 2011, hosted the CWW2015 conference in Berlin and edited the book ‘Wind Energy and Wildlife Interactions - Presentations from the CWW2015 Conference’ (March 2017). His current research focuses on emerging issues and draws on a comprehensive ‘horizon scan’, an interdisciplinary feasibility study involving stakeholders from academia and research and development, agencies, wind energy sector, consultants, and civil society. This feasibility study has been initiated and serves the German Federal Environmental Foundation (Deutsche Bundesstiftung Umwelt, DBU), engaged in innovative approaches for renewable energy’s pathway.
A pioneer in transition: A horizon scan of emerging issues in sustainable wind energy development
When both the Framework Convention to Combat Climate Change (UNFCCC) and the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) have been adopted at the Rio Summit in 1992, certainly no-one anticipated the challenging trade-offs between renewable energy development and conservation of biological diversity. Densely populated and small-sized Germany ranks third in worldwide wind energy capacities, only outpaced by China and US so far. Yet, power and interest transitions, via well-networking civil and political opponents, indicate that efforts to reconcile climate and wildlife protection can no longer be taken for granted. Funded by the German Federal Environmental Foundation (DBU), the horizon scan aimed at identifying the emerging need for at best collaborative action, based on the viewpoints of various stakeholders and the state of research at the nexus of wildlife conservation and wind energy development. We applied a multi-faceted, inclusive and peer-reviewed research process, building on 50 explorative expert interviews and analysed recent research on this nexus. Interviewees ranged across academia, agencies, consultants, wind developers, associations, and environmental groups. This process yielded a pattern of emerging issues, spanning from species and nature conservation concerns, planning and technology-focused topics to societal aspects and participation issues (Figure). Each emerging issue addresses various options for taking action, constituting a catalogue that might contribute either per se or favourably integrated to a relevant programme. We identified three major trends and clustered the topics: One category encompasses a thorough ‘fact-checking’, given the in part tenuous empirical evidence decisions need to be made along. Another set of issues involves the further development of ‘model approaches’. The third major issues rely on conceptual models and empirical data found so far but still lack a ‘proof of concept’ and test application, at least in Germany. Involved experts convened in a workshop in April 2017 to discuss the identified topics so far. We launched a supplementary online survey to contribute to prioritise the topics. A final national meeting will take place in September – with the CWW allowing for discussing the findings beforehand with an international community. Eventually, prioritized ‘hot topics’ might be considered and launched in a relevant DBU programme.