Siemens Energy CEO Christian Bruch said planned European action in regard to Asian wind turbine manufacturers was “not a question of protecting the market from Chinese competitors” but to create a “level playing field”.
Reacting to comments by the CEO of German chemicals giant BASF over the weekend that Chinese offshore wind turbines were cheaper and better than those of European rivals, Bruch said at a conference call on company results: “We can keep pace with the Chinese and even beat them on an international level if we have the right solutions available to us.”
“The problem that I see is that we have countries and regions where I would question whether this is indeed a level playing field. It is necessary to talk about this.”
European wind industry and governments are currently focussing on possible non-trade barriers to Chinese wind turbine manufacturers in the form of non-price tender criteria that could include sustainability, grid access and local content requirements. The European Commission said it would also investigate if or to what degree Chinese OEMs receive cheap state financing or loans or are engaged in dumping practices.
Turning the discussion on its head, Bruch said: “This is not a question of excluding them from the market. The Chinese wind energy market makes up half of the global market and we are unable to gain access to it.”
He didn’t give further detail on that point, but Western OEMs years ago have mostly given up on trying to penetrate the Chinese wind turbine market, particularly in offshore wind, as they can’t compete with cheap state financing or were forced into unfavourable joint ventures to be able to produce in China.
Siemens Wind, Siemens' wind turbine unit before the merger with Gamesa, in 2015 had ended a joint venture with Shanghai Electric that included turbine production in China and instead licensed its 2.5MW onshore, and later its offshore platforms up to 8MW to the Chinese power group.
Siemens Gamesa later signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) to change its partner in its offshore wind technology licensing business model from Shanghai Electric to China Energy United Power, planning to license its 11MW model to the company, but the deal never materialised.
Chinese manufacturers in the past offered smaller turbine sizes than their European rivals, but recently have presented or plan to launch models of up to 22MW – while most Western OEMs said they want to pause at their current maximum rating of 15 or 16MW in order to finally cash in on massive R&D investments.
Some European developers, such as Statkraft, have said they would also consider using Chinese turbines, while Chinese OEM Mingyang Smart Energy is among seven companies and consortia that have applied to take part in Norway’s first commercial offshore wind auction.