Keynote presentation Johann Köppel

Johann Köppel, Environmental Assessment & Planning Research Group, Technical University of Berlin, Germany

Cautious but committed – towards a more adaptive environmental planning approach for wind energy?

Our energy supply has been undergoing a steady transition from a mostly centralized power plant and transmission grid structure to a more decentralized and spatially relevant share of renewable energies. This applies just for wind energy even more as not only rural terrestrial landscapes have faced such change but also marine seascapes. Furthermore, a forerunner on wind energy deployment like Germany with its 30 GW installed capacity approaches a new milestone as far as an extended usage of forested landscapes lies ahead. Steady uncertainties have accompanied these policies and implementation process and we have faced the ongoing dilemma of a sound decision making for wind energy sites without sufficient empirical evidence of its literal impacts. Even planning innovations have been brought forward respectively, be it marine spatial planning, new approaches in regional planning and local zoning, be it outstanding programmatic environmental assessments in the United States or ambitious baseline and monitoring programs as the German offshore EIA standards. At the same time, planning and impact assessments have been used to dealing with uncertainties, thus having challenged traditional approaches by more incremental approaches as well. However, most actors have favoured a definitely cautious roadmap for decision making on wind energy sites, sticking to the precautionary principle as a well established environmental policy approach. This triggered often far-going exclusions of sites already on regional levels and negative planning approaches. Other actors like proponents are questioning the predominance of an overdone precautionary approach and call for a more evidence-based and site-specific planning approach for wind energy, even claiming a necessary paradigm shift.

Learning by doing

In Germany, a joined federal and states working group, chaired by the Federal Ministry of the Environment, has been discussing such more adaptive policies. However, reluctance to accept uncertainty, the given institutional settings and complex interests still hamper a presumably intermediate approach - based on a more adaptive planning theory in favour of anticipatory modeling and monitoring as a key for step-wise adaption. Learning by doing would then be the lead currency so to speak, but are we ready for a respective change in our planning and impact assessment culture? Encouragingly, profound and presumably never seen before research programs have been launched on the impacts and mitigation potentials of wind energy, for a decade at least now. Last but not least, the Conference on Wind Energy and Wildlife (CWW) 2011 in Trondheim was an outstanding showcase of lessons learned so far and presumably the upcoming CWE 2013 event in Stockholm will further contribute to a step-wise decreasing of the uncertainties at hand. Moreover, an international comprehensive synopsis of what studies on wind energy impacts on wildlife and mitigation efforts have shown so far has been scheduled to be launched in November 2012 in Germany as well - hopefully being able to contribute to the series of CWW/CWE conferences as well in 2014 and to discuss the assumed paradigm shift towards more adaptive planning cultures, too.