The energy transition in Germany is characterized by a rapid growth of renewable energy and infrastructure. In order to reduce the impact of humans on the climate system, a more ambitious development of renewable energies is needed. In addition, nature and natural resources must be protected. At the same time, the increasing use of renewable energies leads to impacts on nature conservation aspects, in particular on landscapes, species, and habitats. Therefore, renewable energy systems also affect the protection of biodiversity. Conflicting objectives between the need for renewable energies and their impact on nature and landscape have to be considered equally and as early as possible.
The article follows an interdisciplinary approach that combines an administrative with a research perspective. First, the energy transition as a national transformation process and challenges due to the expansion of renewable energies with regard to nature conservation and landscape management are presented. The analysis of existing literature identifies key factors for a sustainable energy transition such as land availability, landscapes, and impacts on species and habitats. Examining the most affected nature conservation aspects from an administrative perspective, we highlight selected research projects, derive future research demand, and discuss possible approaches to enhance the integration of nature conservation into the energy transition.
In addition to the need for climate protection efforts, the energy transition further has to preserve biological diversity, as well as characteristic features and the beauty of nature and landscape. Numerous energy transition stakeholders face the challenge of integrating nature conservation and landscape management requirements into research projects, strategic planning, and approval procedures. Based on the dynamic development of renewable energies in Germany and the objectives of nature conservation, we describe key challenges and identify future research demands from an administrative and scientific point of view. Current research projects, the impacts of renewable energy generation, and existing approaches to minimize negative effects on nature and landscape are taken into account.
We conclude that nature conservation aspects in general (biodiversity and landscape) have to be better integrated in the energy transition. Therefore, research, technology development and preference, civil participation, a critical discussion, and academic debate are essential elements for a nature-compatible expansion of renewable energies.