25 Oct 2019, 14:17
Benjamin Wehrmann

Persisting slump in German wind power expansion poses “drastic” threat to jobs, climate targets – VDMA study

Clean Energy Wire

A continuing slump in the expansion of Germany's onshore wind power industry could have "drastic" consequences for business and employment in the country's most important renewable energy branch, engineering association VDMA Power Systems has warned. If the current low expansion trend persists, up to 27 percent of the roughly 64,000 jobs directly linked to onshore wind power could be at risk, according to an analysis commissioned by the association. Moreover, total installed capacity would shrink due to older turbines being taken out of operation, making Germany's 2030 emissions reduction almost impossible to reach. With over 40 percent of wind power companies mulling job cuts, Germany could lose its leading position and influence in a market that is booming worldwide, said VDMA Power Systems CEO Matthias Zelinger. "We must retain this position to claim our energy transition dividend," Zelinger argued, adding that the government's climate action package needed concerted measures to ensure installation figures rise again and sufficient land area is provided for new turbines. He said the government's power consumption projections were vastly inaccurate and that the expected growth in e-cars would substantially boost power demand over the coming decade. Contrary to earlier years, "political-regulatory" risks, not costs, now present the greatest burden for turbine manufacturers, such as lawsuits against new projects and rigid minimum distance regulation. According to Wolfgang Dierker of turbine producer General Electric (GE), Germany has been a pioneer not only in terms of wind power technology "but also regarding the technology's acceptance", with problems at home foreshadowing challenges for wind power around the world. Dierker stressed his company needed reliable conditions at home, so as not to be forced to relocate production facilities. While GE produced 150 turbines for installation in Germany in 2017, that number fell to merely four in the first nine months of 2019. 

Onshore wind power is Germany's most important renewable power technology and expected to become the country's leading energy source of the future, but current expansion difficulties mean the number of new turbines installed has fallen to the lowest level in almost 20 years. According to the study commissioned by VDMA Power Systems, employment in the industry has increased by more than 50 percent since 2010 and domestic revenue has climbed to 25.9 billion euros, with about 1.5 billion euros generated in tax income. 

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