International Energy Agency executive director Fatih Birol has warned the European offshore wind industry that it could ‘lose the offshore wind race’ if it allows countries outside Europe to overtake its technological and manufacturing leadership
Speaking at the beginning of the WindTV online event that has replaced this year’s Wind Energy Hamburg conference and exhibition, and using the example of solar PV, in which European countries such as Germany, Italy and Spain used to hold leadership positions but have ceded that position to countries outside Europe, Mr Birol said, “I hope we don’t see the same movie with offshore wind that we have seen with solar.”
Without naming countries that now lead the world in solar PV manufacturing, Mr Birol said that, where once Europe led the way in solar power, 80% of solar PV manufacturing is now concentrated outside Europe. He also highlighted how quickly offshore wind, which originated in Europe, is being adopted in countries outside Europe.
According to a June 2020 report from the IEA, China is the largest solar PV market in the world. It is also a leader in solar PV manufacturing. It is also a fast-growing offshore wind market with huge capacity additions in recent years and its own manufacturing base, which is catching up with European OEM’s ability to develop multi-megawatt, new-generation turbines.
“Europe started the offshore wind marathon,” said Mr Birol, noting that it is in Europe that most offshore wind capacity, technological expertise and manufacturing capacity is concentrated.
“In solar, the marathon also started in Europe, but despite the efforts of governments and leading companies, the winners are elsewhere. Hopefully, with offshore wind, Europe can also be the winner of the marathon.”
Mr Birol highlighted the European Commission’s recently launched Offshore Renewables Strategy, a document that sets goals for a massive increase in the continent’s offshore wind capacity. It calls for 60 GW of offshore wind in the EU by 2030 and 300 GW by 2050. Offshore wind can also be used as a source of renewable hydrogen or ‘green hydrogen’ and has a role at the heart of the energy transition.
“Offshore wind is an idea that came from Europe. I hope that Europe can remain a technology leader,” he concluded.