The offshore wind industry in Europe needs to avoid the thousands of job losses that occurred in onshore wind in recent years, and push for clear policies to make it the backbone of a new Green Deal in the EU, industry executives said at the opening of WindEurope Offshore 2019.

“We should not forget on the way our colleagues who lost their jobs in Europe — our own neighbours, foundation manufacturers, tower manufacturers, now even turbine manufacturers,” Philippe Kavafyan, chief executive of offshore wind turbine maker MHI Vestas, told the opening session.

“Onshore wind is a precedent right in front of us, not an example.”

To build a sustainable offshore wind industry, the sector needs to learn its industrial and policy lessons from the past, he added.

As the offshore wind sector gathers in Copenhagen, the wind industry at large is under unprecedented pressure, with margins getting tight all across Europe, Vattenfall wind chief executive Gunnar Groebler warned.

“The supply chain is having a hard time, we have lost more than 38,000 jobs in the wind industry in Germany alone over the last four years,” he said, cautioning that the sector now is at the brink of losing access to global talent and innovative excellence.

A combination of ill-designed first onshore wind auctions in 2017, a permitting malaise, bureaucratic hurdles, and anti-wind protests have pushed German onshore wind additions to their lowest figure since 2000, resulting in severe job cuts at wind OEMs and suppliers.

Pieter Van Oord, chief executive of Dutch contractor Van Oord, added that due to impact of a crisis in the oil and gas industry, the vessel market has become a ‘buyers market.’

“The balance of power in the industry at the moment is with developers, with the utilities,” Van Oord said, adding that by holding several procurement rounds to save the last cent, the industry is “accepting an unacceptable risk. Contractors are suffering”.

To avoid the problems occurred in onshore wind, the offshore industry must show that it is a strategic industry to Europe that exports equipment worth billions of euros every year, Vattenfall’s Groebler stressed.

“The European Green Deal offers significant expansion potential for offshore wind in Europe. In my view, this is a golden economic opportunity,” he said.

“Offshore wind can be and should be the backbone and the engine of Europe’s Green Deal.”

In order to reach ambitious EU targets for offshore wind, the sector needs to scale up the industrial supply chain, Orsted executive vice president Martin Neubert told the audience, but also made clear what policymakers in Europe must do.

“In order to unlock the necessary climate investments, we need clarity and coherence in a continued pipeline towards and beyond 2030.”