Tesla Giga Berlin’s delays are shining a light on Germany’s slow approval processes

Giga Berlin's new graffiti panels as of early February 2022. (Credit: @Gf4Tesla/Twitter)

Germany’s Traffic Light Coalition recently cited Tesla’s Gigafactory Berlin as an example of why there is a need for Germany to develop a system that could allow permitting procedures to be completed at a quicker timeframe.  

The Traffic Light Coalition is comprised of the Social Democratic Party of Germany (SPD), the Free Democratic Party (FDP), and Alliance 90 or The Greens. In a statement to Handelsblatt, SPD politician Mathias Stein outlined how planning law should be simplified to expedite investment projects such as Tesla’s EV factory in Grunheide. Stein noted that repeated interpretation, objection and response loops — which tend to extend the approval of a project — should be avoided in the future. 

“In the coalition agreement, we have therefore provided that public participation procedures no longer have to be completely repeated after plan changes in an ongoing approval procedure. Instead, we are taking a more pragmatic approach by only requiring newly affected parties to participate and only allowing objections to plan amendments” Stein said. 

The Free Democratic Party is on the same page, with Daniel Föst, spokesman on construction and housing policy for the FDP parliamentary group, stating that the FDP supports initiatives that could speed up and simplify procedures. Föst also called for processes to be more flexible. “The FDP is up for anything that speeds up and simplifies the procedures and is not at the expense of third parties. We also need to become more flexible during the process and construction,” the spokesman said. 

Green Party economic policy expert Dieter Janecek highlighted that the acceleration of planning is one of the central initiatives of the new German government. This, according to the policy expert, is something that is essential for the success of the energy transition and the ecological transformation of German’s economy. “For this, we need agile procedures with which we can also react unbureaucratically to changing planning or framework conditions,” Janecek said. 

For now, Gigafactory Berlin’s final approval is still yet to be released, though recent reports estimate that the facility may finally get permission to start vehicle production around March 2022. This presents a notable delay, as it would likely result in Giga Berlin falling behind its sibling, the much larger Gigafactory Texas, which is expected to start vehicle production soon. Jörg Steinbach, Brandenburg’s Minister of Economics, has acknowledged these delays, noting previously that the bureaucratic challenges in Germany are “sometimes difficult for a foreign investor to understand.” 

That being said, economist Michael Hüther believes that the Traffic Light Coalition’s stance is on point. Since companies like Tesla today are becoming more agile, Hüther noted that countries such as Germany should also be able to adapt. “It is not only companies that need to be agile in the 21st century – the administration, and thus the approval procedures, must do the same. (The) administration should be geared to the pace and working methods of companies, not the other way around. This includes making it possible to make changes to construction plans in an ongoing process without having to reopen the procedure,” the economist said. 

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Tesla Giga Berlin’s delays are shining a light on Germany’s slow approval processes
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