Wind energy manufacturing must not only stay in Europe, but it should actually grow the supply chain — while serious discussions should start to make it a strategic EU industry, top politicians and executives said at the opening of the WindEnergy Hamburg conference today.
Germany’s offshore wind sector alone employs some 24,000 people and generates gross value of €1.5bn ($1.45bn) a year, the country’s economics and climate minister, Robert Habeck, said in a keynote speech, adding that onshore wind creates jobs for another 100,000 people.
“Here exactly lies the problem. The relocation of production capacities abroad, which we have seen in recent years, must not continue. Otherwise our wind sector experiences a repeat of the decline that hit German PV in the past decade.
“The production of equipment and the main components must stay in Europe. Otherwise, our energy transition will only swap one dependency for another.”
Habeck’s comments came after German wind turbine maker Nordex closed its blade manufacturing in Rostock, northern Germany, earlier this year while widening production in India, and German peer Enercon had to seek state aid.
Chinese competitors such as MingYang Smart Energy, which are boosted by their giant domestic market, meanwhile are making first major inroads into the European market.
Habeck said he already is in close contact with representatives of the wind industry to explore ways to strengthen the domestic value chain.
“We will do our utmost to emerge stronger from this crisis, and to build up a resilient, sustainable and independent energy supply system, the minister pledged.
The answer to the ongoing energy crisis triggered by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine is not to slow down the energy transition, but to accelerate it, Habeck added.
“Renewables are not the problem, they are the answer to the demands of our time.”
Shortage of supply?
RWE offshore wind chief executive Sven Utermöhlen agreed, and stressed that the answer to both the current energy crisis and climate worries is “to install a lot more renewables and wind energy.”
But he warned the industry may come back to WindEnergy Hamburg in two years’ time and find itself in a situation of shortage of supply.
“For all the growth that we want to realise, there is not enough supply, there are not enough foundations, not enough vessels, turbines, people, or talent. Shortage of supply will be the topic in two years,” he predicted at the opening press conference, mirroring similar concerns stated by Vattenfall’s offshore head Catrin Jung in an interview with Recharge.
Yet, for the massive acceleration of the renewables build-out targeted by Germany and the EU, policy makers need to “streamline, accelerate, simplify, and digitalise the permitting process,” Utermöhlen urged.
“We need to move away from thousands of papers to be submitted in five copies to authorities.”
For offshore wind it is also very important that the expansion of grids on land is sped up, Utermöhlen stressed, to “ensure power can be distributed.”
Wind as strategic industry
From the point of view of manufacturers and suppliers, current political ambitions are good, but not good enough, said Dennis Rendschmidt, managing director of VDMA Power Systems, a group representing wind manufacturers.
“We also need the implementation of these ambitions.
“We will only have a ramp-up of renewables, if we have orders in the books as a supplier and as a manufacturer.”
If security of supply and being resilient is to be a value in itself, and having renewable industries in Europe is a value in itself, then “we need to talk about as a society and in politics what this value is,” Rendschmidt added.
“I am advocating that we… have a political discussion about the value of [regarding] the wind industry in Europe as a strategic industry sector.”
Officially giving Europe’s wind sector the status of a strategic industry was also a key part of a white paper launched by OEM Siemens Energy on Monday.
“This white paper clearly states the simple safeguards that the wind industry requires from regulators to deliver European energy security and timely energy transition,” said Siemens Gamesa CEO Jochen Eickholt.
“Without intervention and cooperation among governments, manufacturers and suppliers, the energy transition here in Europe will become unattainable and Europe will lose its position as a global leader in the wind industry.”
In its white paper, the company also asked for faster permits, managing price risks to stabilise supply chains, support for innovation, and the establishment of a level playing field across Europe to protect the wind industry through fiscal policies to offset subsidies from other countries or through strict local-content requirements in pre-qualification and participation conditions for tenders.
WindEnergy Hamburg is taking place for the first time in four years, with 1,400 exhibitors and an expected 30,000 visitors.