Tesla Inc’s factory near Berlin faces no major hurdles before getting the final green light to start producing electric vehicles next year, the premier of the state where it is being built said.
Public hearings into the plant in Brandenburg were off to a rocky start and have taken nearly two weeks instead of two days.
Environmentalists and local residents have grilled authorities on hundreds of issues from deforestation and water usage to increased truck traffic and noise pollution.
Despite the drawn-out process, Brandenburg Premier Dietmar Woidke said that he is not concerned and expects the project to progress as planned.
“As of now, I know of no problem that would stand in the way of the construction permit,” Woidke told Bloomberg News at the state government’s headquarters in Potsdam.
“My assumption is that a legally sound permission is possible here,” he said.
The plant, Tesla’s first in Europe, is slated to start production next summer and could assemble as many as 500,000 vehicles per year. Several structures have already been erected at the site in Gruenheide, which Tesla chief executive officer Elon Musk visited last month.
The factory is a major investment in the former communist region and a test for Germany’s efforts to speed up its notoriously slow-moving bureaucracy.
Musk announced the plan to challenge the likes of Volkswagen AG, BMW AG and Daimler AG’s Mercedes-Benz in their own back yard less than a year ago. Despite hurdles, including concerns about wildlife, the project has remained on track.
Tesla’s investment dovetails with the state’s growing focus on cleaner transport and renewable energy. Rolls-Royce Holdings PLC is developing low-emissions aircraft engines in the state surrounding Berlin, and BASF SE is producing components for vehicle batteries there.
Talks are under way to bring more big-name companies to Brandenburg, Woidke said, declining to provide specifics.
“We don’t go public with the beginning of every talks,” he said.
The state has renewable energy capacity — predominantly wind power — equivalent to 130 percent of its needs, an incentive for manufacturers that are under pressure to lower their carbon footprint, Woidke said.
To be in position to better leverage its clean-energy resources, the state is lobbying German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s government to reduce a mandatory “green levy.”
Consumers and companies in Germany pay mandatory charges on all power used to support the build out of clean energy.
The surcharge has helped make German electricity the most expensive in Europe and is pushing up the potential costs of companies like Tesla to tap wind and solar, Woidke said.
Brandenburg and EON SE’s Edis unit are in talks with Tesla to supply the plant with renewable energy, the premier said.
Using green power locally to support industry would cut the costs of Merkel’s sweeping plan to build a “super highway” grid taking green power from Germany’s Baltic and North sea coasts to industrial areas in the south, he said.
Furthermore, fostering local consumption would counter resistance to local wind parks, he said.
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