Germany’s government responds to Hamburg’s “wind energy appeal”

At Hamburg’s Wind Energy Summit last month, the trade group WindEurope unveiled their latest market outlook that shows the industry is still on course for a solid growth of 17GW per year through 2022. However beyond that, growth is hampered by a lack of individual government policy clarity.

Despite the growth of the efficiency of wind energy, the development of new wind farms is statgnating.

Germany has to clarify plans for new wind farms (Photo by Public Domain)

With 86.9GW of wind expected to be installed between 2018 and 2022, including a forecasted record of 20.5GW next year, Europe may reach 258GW of installed, cumulative capacity by 2022 according to their “Wind Energy in Europe: Outlook to 2022” report. But beyond then, things are not at all clear. “Most governments still haven’t clarified their plans for new wind farms up to 2030,” said WindEurope chief executive Giles Dickson, making it difficult for companies to both secure permits and financing. Looking ahead, Dickson said that “wind is the leading source of renewable power generation today, but soon after 2030, it will be the leading source of power generation overall in Europe.”

However, even though demand is robust and capital is there, problems in various countries still need to be addressed. “Germany messed up its first onshore wind auctions last year, so will be building much less wind in the next year or two, leading to job losses. And France has a short-term problem around who can award permits, so there’ll be a dip there too,” said Dickson in Hamburg.

However, Germany will remain a leader through the next five years, ramping up to 73GW of accumulated capacity from 59MW today, its share of new installations will likely fall from 40% today to only 24% by 2023. “The good news is that we are seeing market diversification, with Europe’s wind growth being less dependent on a few larger markets such as Germany, says Daniel Fraile, WindEurope’s head of Market Intelligence. “However, Germany still remains number one in onshore wind.”

Executive director of the International Energy Agency, Fatih Birol, further confirmed that Europe is likely to rely on wind as its primary source of energy by 2027 — and its role in the grid will only increase from then on. Though currently wind generates only around 10% of the average energy EU countries require, over the next decades, the IEA predicts that overall offshore wind capacity will “reach 200 GW by 2040, with the EU as the largest player. Ongoing cost declines could spark faster deployment around the world, and open prospects for the production of “green” hydrogen,” said Birol.

However, as Birol warned that carbon emissions globally will likely rise again in 2018, offshore wind is becoming a key tool in reversing this trend. Based on new calculations, they see overall offshore wind capacity growing exponentially from 20GW today (compared to more than 500GW of installed onshore wind) to close to 200GW by 2040, with the potential to go even further if the right government policies were initiated. “The developments in Europe can spark a wave of offshore wind appetite” worldwide, he said while noting that even more opportunities for clean generation will come from floating turbines.

Government intransigence and the adoption of negative growth policies in Germany, once the world’s leader in renewable energy development, has slowed down the pace of green adoption. In Hamburg, energy ministers from five northern German states, as well as trade unions and wind sector representatives publicly signed a joint “Wind Energy Appeal” demanding the federal government to follow through with pledges made earlier this year to auction off an additional 4GW in onshore wind and create more opportunities for off-shore as well. Without this clarity, turbine producers, developers and the domestic industry are unsure of direction and beginning to reduce jobs and investment.

As if on cue, days later on October 1, the so-called “Grand Coalition” government comprised of members from the conservative CDU/CSU and the center-left SPD seemingly acceded to these calls and assured in a public statement that “We will quickly implement the special call for tenders for wind on land and photovoltaic provided in the coalition agreement in order to contribute to the closure of the 2020 climate deficit.” These special tenders are foreseen, with a corresponding eight to ten million tonnes of CO2 reduction, to contribute to Germany approaching its 2020 climate change target—now seemingly being surpassed.

As part of the decision, the government will auction off 4GW of onshore wind energy and photovoltaics as well as one offshore wind energy contribution in 2019 and 2020. They also pledge to realize the 65% expansion target for renewable energies in 2030. “For this we will increase the statutory expansion target to 65% in 2030 and adapt the technology-specific expansion paths. We will pay attention to a better network synchronization. We will increase the acceptance of wind turbines onshore.”

Of course, if Germany is to actually meet those 2020 emissions goals, let alone its 2030 targets, it will have to more aggressively shut down and retire existing lignite burning and carbon dioxide belching power plants, its single greatest sources of carbon pollution. An initial report from the so-called “Coal Commission” tasked with developing a coal exit strategy is due in mid-October and will likely include such closure recommendations.





L. Michael Buchsbaum is an energy and mining journalist and industrial photographer based in Germany. Since the mid-1990s, he has covered the social, environmental, economic and political impacts of the transition from fossil fuels towards renewables for dozens of industry magazines, journals, institutions and corporate clients. Born in the U.S., he emigrated to Germany and Europe to better document the Energiewende. He is also the host of The Global Energy Transition Podcast.

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