Closing of wind turbine plant in eastern Germany raises questions about coal region’s future
Clean Energy Wire / rbb
Danish wind turbine manufacturer Vestas has announced the closure of a blade factory in eastern German state Brandenburg. The company is axeing over 450 jobs in the town of Lauchhammer and is also shutting down two other production sites in Spain and Denmark “as demand for these modules will gradually shift to markets primarily outside of Europe and be delivered via more localised manufacturing facilities”. The decision is raising questions about the prospects for Germany as a lead market and driver for the key energy transition technology, Andreas Rausch comments for local public broadcaster rbb. “This is a devastating signal for the entire region,” he argues, adding that the end of coal power in the eastern region Lusatia in 2038 at the latest is already taxing for local economies. “While the debate about a faster coal exit is getting louder, there are no jobs to replace it in sight,” Rausch writes, even though the government has earmarked billions of euros to fund the transition. But the closing of the factory also casts a doubt on the speed of wind power expansion, which has slowed significantly in Germany since 2017 but needs to rebound fast to meet renewable energy goals for 2030, he adds. The parting of Vestas is a “catastrophe” for the economy of the small town that celebrated the factory’s opening in 2002 after years of deindustrialisation after the collapse of communist eastern Germany, Lauchhammer’s deputy mayor Jörg Rother told rbb. Brandenburg’s economy minister Jörg Steinbach said the decision was questionable, as demand for wind turbines is set to go up again. He said he is in contact with Vestas to negotiate whether the decision can be “modified”.
NGO Environmental Action Germany (DUH) said political framework conditions were directly to blame for the closure. Conservative politicians like Brandenburg’s CDU top candidate Jens Koeppen or CDU chancellor candidate Armin Laschet have always advocated for tighter minimum distance rules for wind turbines. The coal region would now lose jobs in “an industry of the future” while billions of euros are spent on coal company compensation. “This amounts to a veritable economic policy failure of conservative opponents of the energy transition,” DUH’s Sascha Müller-Kraenner said.
Wind power is Germany’s most important renewable power source and must grow up to four times faster than in recent years to allow Germany to phase-out nuclear and fossil power capacity. A key goal of the government in the coal exit is to support the economically weak eastern German coal regions in replacing lost jobs in coal new ones emerging in renewable power production.