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Germany's 'immature' wind tender winners will mostly get built: Juwi

Juwi CEO Class says Germany’s ill-designed auction model in 2017 is only part of the cause of the onshore wind slump

About two thirds of community-based projects that were successful in Germany’s first onshore wind auctions in 2017 will eventually be built, Michael Class, chief executive at developer Juwi, told Recharge.

Ill-designed criteria for the 2017 auctions with privileges for so-called citizens or cooperative wind projects are believed to have led to a steep decline in onshore wind additions in Europe’s largest economy this year.

The 82%-decline in 2019 half-year installations from the year-ago period to 287MW has sent shivers through the wind supply chain and already led to massive job losses.

Community power groups in 2017 had won more than 90% of the combined volume of 2.8GW auctioned off. Unlike other developers, the groups were granted 4.5 instead of 2.5 years to complete their projects after winning in a tender. Community projects were also exempt from the obligation to provide a valid permit in hands to satisfy Germany’s stringent noise emission rules.

Asked, whether many of these projects may never be built, Class said he doesn't share that view. “Part of the decline [in onshore additions] certainly can be traced back to immature projects that were successful in 2017,” Class said.

But “I think that a great part – maybe two thirds – will be completed, possibly with a certain delay. … I don’t think they are completely out of the market.”

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Juwi itself has not won any bids in 2017, and this year is building about 50MW in onshore wind capacity in Germany from later tenders.

Only blaming the onshore wind installation malaise on auction design flaws and community power deflects attention from the real and “giant” problems facing wind power in Germany, the CEO added.

“The giant problem is the fact that we hardly get any permits at the moment. That has numerous reasons. We need more areas, we need political support, a clear commitment and not just lip service.”

To overcome the bottleneck, the permitting process needs to be simplified and the number of possible appeals in lawsuits must be limited, Class said. Also, excessive species protection should be “normalised” and the number of staff at permitting agencies boosted, he added.

Class also cast doubts about the political scope for action of economics and environment minister Peter Altmaier, suggesting his own Christian Democrats (CDU) may not support him in bold measures to counter climate change.

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“The question is, does Altmaier have political legroom, and does he have political support within the CDU?” Class said.

“I think, you simply have to acknowledge that the CDU may not have arrived in all points, where we need to go to in regards to the Paris targets signed by it as well,” Class explained.

“The CDU signed that [the Paris climate agreement] while in government. It is a test of how serious the CDU is about its own reliability. There are justified doubts about that.”

Altmaier last week had invited close to 70 top state politicians, as well as representatives from wind, anti-wind and environmental groups, for a “wind summit” to find ways out of the current onshore wind decline.

The meeting didn’t render any immediate results, but the minister pledged to come up with a “to-do list” of measures within two or three weeks after the meeting.

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