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German wind power slump 'to cost 40,000 job losses'

Wind body chief warns companies are mulling investments abroad if installation downturn continues

The downturn in Germany’s wind power sector will have caused up to 40,000 job losses by the end of 2019, Hermann Albers, president of national wind energy federation BWE told the opening of the Husum Wind industry event.

The job losses come amid a steep downturn in turbine installations in the country that the industry can only partially offset with exports. During the first half of 2019, net onshore wind turbine additions in Germany fell by 78% to 231MW from the year-earlier period. Net installations had already more than halved to 2.15GW in 2018.

Domestic companies operating in the sector have already told him that if this downward trend isn’t stopped they plan to invest in other countries, Albers said at the industry fair's opening ceremony.

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The estimate of 40,000 jobs consists of up to 26,000 posts shed across 2016 and 2017, based on figures from the German economics and energy ministry, Albers specified.

Another 10,000 people lost their jobs in the wind industry in 2018 and 2019 so far, Germany’s powerful metalworkers' union IG Metall estimates, based on a poll among companies. The union reckons that another 4,000 posts will go by the end of this year – unless there were to be a “powerful signal very fast” by the government, Albers added.

Insolvent wind OEM Senvion, for example, is expected to see more redundancies by year-end at its manufacturing facilities in Germany after so far failing to find a buyer for all of its operations.

In the entire renewables sector, some 100,000 jobs have been lost in recent years, as the PV and bioenergy sectors also face problems, Albers added.

The federal government in Berlin so far has not reacted with measures to counter the huge downturn in employment. Instead, it has announced €40bn ($44bn) in subsidies to regions that will be affected by Germany’s planned exit from coal and lignite by 2038 (which hasn’t even started), even though jobs in the fossil industry are far fewer than in renewables.

In the lignite sector, for example, some 18,000 jobs are expected to be lost by 2038, but Albers pointed out that two thirds of employees in the sector by then will have reached their retirement age anyway.

“It is striking that despite these very high figure of job losses in renewable energies, there are many more discussions in the public and in politics about the job restructuring of 18,000 employees in lignite, and that billions in structural aid are being invested to cushion that process,” Albers told Recharge on the sidelines in Husum.

"It's striking how despite very high job losses in renewables, there is much more discussion about lignite employment."

“Just looking at the figures – comparing 18,000 to 100,000 in renewables – you can see that different standards seem to be applied.”

The cabinet of Chancellor Angela Merkel approved subsidies for coal and lignite regions five days ahead of early September elections in two East German states – Brandenburg and Saxony – where two of the country’s three main lignite mining areas are located.

Berlin seems to have feared that large numbers of disenchanted coal workers would vote for the climate crisis-denying Alternative for Germany (AfD) party, which is also rallying against renewable energies, similar to voters in declining US coal regions massively opting for Donald Trump.

It is doubtful whether the funds thrown at the lignite regions have paid off, however.

The AfD in both states gained about a quarter of the vote and became the second-biggest party. In one town in Brandenburg’s lignite-mining region of Lusatia, the AfD even scored more than 50%.

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