BERLIN (dpa-AFX) - The name is cumbersome, but the promise is big: a new law is to ensure significantly faster approval procedures throughout Germany. It affects tens of thousands of industrial plants - including all existing and future wind turbines in the country. The Bundestag gave the green light for this on Thursday. Members of parliament from the governing parties praised the innovation as a "super turbo". But what is it all about?

The planned innovation is intended to allow certain facilities, including wind turbines, to be built and converted more quickly in Germany in future. To this end, the so-called Federal Immission Control Act is being amended - a law that affects all installations that cause noise or have other potentially harmful effects on the environment. In addition to wind turbines, this also includes rolling mills, foundries, waste disposal plants and plants for the production of green hydrogen.

Processes to be shortened by 10 months on average

SPD politician Daniel Rinkert, who played a key role in negotiating the law, estimates that there will be 20,000 changes to industrial plants requiring approval by the end of the decade. "We are igniting the super turbo for acceleration today," explained Rinkert in the Bundestag on Thursday. According to the SPD MP, he assumes that procedures can be shortened by an average of ten months as a result.

Digitalization to provide the boost

The main aim is to speed up approval procedures by eliminating previously required procedural steps and through digitalization. "We are putting an end to the days of file folders," promised Rinkert. In future, a USB stick will be sufficient for permit applications. The law is also intended to significantly simplify the repowering of wind turbines - i.e. the replacement of older wind turbines with new ones. According to Rinkert, there have been many hurdles to date. Even a software update in a wind turbine requires a lengthy procedure. This should be a thing of the past in future.

In addition, approval periods should only be able to be extended once by three months in future. Previously, this was possible indefinitely. A further extension would require the express consent of the applicant. This is intended to prevent procedures from being dragged out again and again. In addition, documents that are not decisive for the assessment of approvability should be able to be submitted subsequently in future - without blocking the start of construction.

The law also provides for changes to public participation. The so-called "consultation meetings", at which local residents can also take part to obtain information, are to be abolished where possible or replaced by digital formats.

50,000 industrial plants alone are covered by the law

As Rinkert's office reported in response to a dpa inquiry and citing figures from the Federation of German Industries (BDI), a total of 50,000 industrial plants in Germany that require approval are covered by the law. Wind turbines are not included here. According to the German Wind Energy Association (BWE), there were 30,243 wind turbines in Germany at the beginning of the year. All wind turbines that are still being built will also be subject to the simplified procedures in future.

Environmental standards would not be weakened by the simplified procedures, assured several members of parliament from the Greens and SPD during the almost 70-minute debate in plenary. In the past, environmental associations had repeatedly warned against reducing bureaucracy at the expense of environmental and nature standards.

Climate protection enshrined in law

In order to ensure that climate protection plays an overriding role in all procedures in future, the Ampel has had the climate enshrined as a protected good in the law. This means that all ordinances issued on the basis of the new law can also regulate climate protection requirements. What this means in practice remains to be seen. The CDU/CSU parliamentary group fears that the government has put the brakes on all its efforts to speed up the law. The protection status for the climate could lead to more bureaucracy, warned CDU MP Steffen Bilger. The AfD also voiced some fierce criticism. AfD MP Thomas Ehrhorn spoke of an "ideological project".

In contrast, the German Wind Energy Association (BWE) was very supportive. BWE President Bärbel Heidebroek spoke of a "strong amendment" that would give wind power in Germany a boost. "The streamlining of the approval procedures will not only help the project sponsors, but also the authorities to achieve the politically expected speed in the expansion of wind energy as a source of power," she explained.

However, before this can become a reality, the project must overcome another decisive hurdle: The Federal Council still has to approve the "approval turbo" of the traffic light./faa/DP/stw