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09 Aug 2021, 12:15
Sören Amelang

Germany falls behind competition in renewables exports – economic institute

Clean Energy Wire

Germany finds it unexpectedly hard to translate its landmark energy transition into an export success in renewable technologies, says a report by the German Economic Institute (IW). "Export figures for important goods for renewable energy production have been stagnating or falling for years," the institute said. Following the collapse of German solar PV module exports over the past decade, China now also exports three times as many inverters as Germany. German exports of electrolysers are also on a downward trend, and China could overtake Germany in wind turbine exports in the medium term, IW said.

The researchers said that many renewable products can be easily copied because they are not very complex, resulting in production moving to lower-cost countries. "German manufacturers only have good chances in the long run in areas with a high demand for innovation and complicated technology that is difficult to standardise," said IW economist Jürgen Matthes. The institute said Germany should take into account whether it really has long-term comparative advantages when considering support programmes motivated by climate policy. "Especially in mechanical engineering and the electrical industry, Germany has the chance to develop a competitive production base in the area of climate protection goods," said IW researcher Thilo Schaefer.

Turning the energy transition into an export success is a policy mantra of all major parties in the German parliament. Policymakers hope this will compensate for jobs that are lost on the way to a low-emission economy, for example in fossil fuel industries.

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