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I'm also no expert in debugging nova and had quite some troubles with it. I knew that libvirt was used, so I located the instances on the compute node and tried to start them manually using virsh (https://help.ubuntu.com/community/KVM/Virsh). Didn't work, but so I could be sure it's a problem with libvirt and the xml file that defines the instance.

Well it turned out that there was an entry in the xml file for the vnc server which was not correct. After it was removed, I could start the machines.