Lawsuits and Citizens’ Petitions as Impediments to the Expansion of Wind Energy in Germany


Although wind energy has long been a key pillar of the energy revolution, its accelerated expansion is also becoming fundamental for ensuring supply security in light of the current energy crisis. However, this expansion experienced a severe slump between 2018 and 2020. Contributing factors included problems with planning and permits, as well as local citizen petitions and lawsuits. Because these processes and their effects on wind energy expansion have not yet been systematically researched, a research project, under the direction of Prof. Dr. Annette Elisabeth Töller at the FernUniversität in Hagen, has now been approved by the German Federal Ministry of Economics and Climate Protection (BMWK) to investigate the phenomenon. The title of the project is “Lawsuits and citizens’ petitions as impediments to the expansion of wind energy in Germany – Hemm-den-Wind” (Hold-back-the-Wind).

Supported closely by the psychologists Dr. Helen Landmann and Prof. Dr. Robert Gaschler as well as the legal specialist Prof. Dr. Andrea Edenharter, the interdisciplinary project, which also includes key contributions from political scientist Dr. Daniel Rasch, is researching the procedural, legal and social frameworks for expanding wind energy.

The project is supported by 29 wind energy companies across Germany, as well as the German Wind Energy Association (Bundesverband WindEnergie e. V.) and the Agency for Onshore Wind Energy (Fachagentur Windenergie an Land e. V.). Its work brings together perspectives from political science, psychology, and jurisprudence to identify which conditions trigger lawsuits and citizens’ petitions against onshore wind projects occur and at which stage they become an obstacle to wind energy development.

  • The political science subproject deals with citizens’ petitions as well as (collective) lawsuits against wind energy plants and investigates under which conditions these proceedings occur in the first place and also which conditions determine whether they are successful (in the sense that the erection of a specific wind energy plant is prevented or restricted).
  • The psychology-based subproject is primarily concerned with the psychological conditions which lead to citizens’ petitions against wind energy projects, focusing on the emergence of group-related motivation and emotion.
  • The jurisprudential subproject examines lawsuits filed against permits for wind turbines, applications for judicial review against planning regulations on the use of wind power, and also lawsuits regarding citizens’ petitions. It explores the reasons most often used to stop wind energy development in these proceedings.

By combining these three perspectives and working closely with the Agency for Onshore Wind Energy, concrete insights are being gained that may help to improve the procedural, legal and social frameworks for wind energy expansion. Preparations are currently underway so that the project can begin in January 2023.

Head of Project

Prof. Dr. Annette Elisabeth Töller Photo: Hardy Welsch

Prof. Dr. Annette Elisabeth Töller

Email: annette.toeller

Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences
Institute of Political Science
Chair of Political Science III: Policy Field Analysis & Environmental Policy