WORLD: Chancellor Olaf Scholz (SPD) recently announced more speed in the expansion of renewable energies and said that four to five wind turbines will soon be built per day. Can North Rhine-Westphalia deal with it?
Mona Neubaur: The federal government has drawn the right conclusions so that we can regain the speed of expansion in renewable energies that we had before previous federal governments bureaucratized what was originally a very lean renewable energy law. That gives us momentum. It will certainly be more challenging for North Rhine-Westphalia than for other federal states due to the dense population.
WORLD: Black-Green in NRW has promised 1000 new wind turbines by 2027. In 2022, only 68 net were built. NRW is behind schedule. How is that supposed to be done?
Neubaur: Of course, that remains our goal. We have already initiated the first measures in the new state government so that we can make up for the omissions of the past. That's why we issued an updated decree at the end of 2022, which enables extensions to be made on forest areas destroyed by bark beetles. We have made it possible to set up wind turbines along rails and roads and in commercial areas.
We have to make the space available as quickly and legally as possible. There is a lot of interest in investing in renewable energy. I want these investments to take place in our business location.
WORLD: When will the conversion be visible?
At the state party conference in Husum, Chancellor Scholz also commented on questions of renewable energies. So that 80 percent of the electricity demand can be covered, "we have to install four to five wind turbines per day by the end of this decade," says Scholz.
Neubaur: We now have additional backing from the EU via the emergency regulation. As a result, many projects will be approved more quickly. We are assuming that construction projects for new wind turbines will become visible throughout North Rhine-Westphalia this year.
WORLD: Will the landscape change as much as in Paderborn, where wind turbines can be seen stretching to the horizon?
Neubaur: We are still used to large fossil power plants when we talk about energy. But of course, our landscape will change due to the addition of photovoltaic systems and wind turbines. I believe that we can increase public acceptance through participation, including in economic success. Russia's war of aggression against Ukraine and the energy crisis have also changed perceptions.
WORLD: Will there be a precise expansion plan for renewable energies in NRW?
Neubaur: No, but as early as this March we will make it clear where there is potential space in North Rhine-Westphalia. Our department for regional planning supports the local communities. A newly established task force should help where there are obstacles to approval. We no longer just describe problems, we find solutions.
WORLD: What are the reactions from the industry?
Neubaur: There is a desire for renewable energies in large parts of industry. Companies also want to be able to generate energy on a decentralized basis, because this makes energy costs more predictable and because there is a desire to stay in North Rhine-Westphalia. The companies tell the politicians: hurry up.
It is perfectly clear that the future success of a business model will depend on whether and how green it is. This became even clearer with the shock of the Russian war of annihilation against Ukraine. The companies want to move away from gas and fossil-based power generation towards renewable electricity and green hydrogen. They are rightly demanding a modern, sustainable infrastructure.
WORLD: From companies to nature conservation associations, there are calls for the current 1000-meter distance rule for wind turbines to be abolished immediately. Why are you hesitating?
Neubaur: We are currently abolishing the 1000 meter distance rule for repowering, the upgrading of old systems. It will now proceed in stages.
WORLD: Bavaria's Prime Minister Markus Söder (CSU) has just boasted that his state is at the forefront of wind power expansion, even ahead of NRW. Right?
Neubaur: I don't think much of such comparisons if it's just to distract from the fact that in the past the brakes on the expansion of renewables were pushed down really hard. If Markus Söder thinks he has to do that, that's his business. We are focused on our job here.
WORLD: Black-Green in NRW has announced a gradual solar obligation from January 1, 2023. The responsible CDU building ministry has not yet delivered. That doesn't sound like the much-touted turbo.
Neubaur: The procedure is currently being coordinated between the ministries. In any case, we will make it clear that every roof area in NRW that is suitable for solar energy is also used.
WORLD: The Lützerath settlement in the Rhenish area was cleared because of the progressing Garzweiler opencast lignite mining. Climate protectionists have fought back and accused the Greens of treason and cronies with the lignite industry. How big is the loss of credibility for your party?
Neubaur: We agreed in the black-green coalition agreement that we want to phase out lignite-fired power generation in 2030, eight years earlier than planned. We have succeeded. We have thus created another physical boundary for open pit mining. We were faced with the challenge of combining energy supply with climate protection.
I get recognition for the fact that we managed to do this. There was no chance of getting Lützerath. There was a clear legal situation and there is a need in the energy industry. Unfortunately, we temporarily need additional lignite to become independent of Russian gas.
WORLD: What do you appreciate about your coalition partner, the CDU, and what is annoying?
Neubaur: What I like about the coalition partner is that there is no attempt to impose CDU programs on the Greens and that there is respect for the fact that we Greens have a great will to shape things within us.
WORLD: From the CDU one hears that governing with the Greens is more strenuous than with the FDP because there is much more need for discussion. And nothing annoys you about the CDU?
Neubaur: No, I can't complain.
WORLD: Would you also say that in relation to the CDU party leadership in the federal government? Is Friedrich Merz compatible with the Greens?
Neubaur: Fortunately, I experience the NRW-CDU very differently than Friedrich Merz. Some of his socio-political statements do not fit at all with our self-image in and about NRW.
WORLD: You mean his statements about "little pashas" and the "social tourism" of Ukraine war refugees?
Neubaur: Here we know about the opportunities and challenges of a diverse society, but above all we work to ensure that a society does not split over the challenges. We want to ensure a good coexistence between rural and urban areas and people with different biographies.
WORLD: The traffic light in the federal government is currently arguing about priorities when it comes to financing. Does the threesome model disenchant?
Neubaur: I'm not someone who sees her political work as magical. It was clear to me that we had a long-distance run ahead of us in NRW and that it would be exhausting. However, one could learn from us that clarification processes are organized internally and that we talk more to each other than about each other.
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