David Foxwell reflects on the German Government’s inability to set targets for future offshore wind capacity
David Foxwell reflects on the German Government’s seeming inability to set targets for future offshore wind capacity
Thousands of jobs are at risk, climate targets will be missed and export opportunities lost if the German Government does not get its act together on offshore wind.
As OWJ has reported on a number of occasions in the last 18 months, industry bodies have appealed several times to the German Government to raise long-term targets for offshore wind capacity in the country and bring forward a special tender for around 1.5 GW of offshore wind capacity in the short-term, to avoid a damaging lull in activity offshore before more projects get underway in the early 2020s.
A lack of auctions and a disappointing perspective for future auction volumes means orderbooks are drying up in Germany and it is unclear when and how they will be filled. The last German auction for offshore wind was in April 2018 and no more are scheduled until 2021. A tender for circa 1.5 GW of capacity seemed to have been agreed but did not happen.
Thousands of jobs in the offshore wind supply chain have been lost in the last three years alone, but Germany has an opportunity to put offshore wind back on track in its National Energy & Climate Plan for 2030. The plan currently envisages only 15 GW of installations by 2030, although Germany could comfortably deliver 20 GW and a higher volume by 2035.
20 GW by 2030 is the kind of figure industry associations such as the German Offshore Wind Energy Foundation are pitching to the government, but as WindEurope highlighted recently, the debate about Germany’s offshore wind target is taking place amid significant wider developments on the government’s approach to onshore wind, permitting and a public acceptance working group the government has created. Unfortunately, the government is unlikely to agree on any changes to the offshore target until the onshore volumes and acceptance rules are settled, which may not be until next year.
The Offshore Wind Foundation wants 20 GW by 2030 and “at least 30 GW by 2035” along with a commitment from the government to the tender in the short-term to ‘bridge the gap.’ It claims that 3,000 jobs in the offshore wind industry have already been lost and predicts the loss of another 8,000 if the 2030 capacity target isn’t boosted.
Ironically, given that Germany has always had a leading role in the offshore wind industry, the indecision comes at a time when the industry is taking off worldwide, just when German companies could have expected to benefit from a booming market.
As a report from wind: research put it, “Following major advances in recent years the industry is currently at a crossroads… The industry in Germany is in danger of stagnating… limiting future expansion will have an adverse effect on many companies in the supply chain, and on their employees.”
In contrast, wind: research claimed, if targets are raised, expansion of offshore wind energy capacity to a level that would enable the federal government to meet 2030 targets would generate thousands of additional jobs.
If Germany was also to develop power-to-gas technology – which would help get around problems with grid capacity, which have long been a bottleneck in the industry – the number of employees employed in the sector could be higher still.
Compared to the status quo, with up to 8,000 more jobs lost in the industry, a power-to-gas scenario modelled by wind: research would enable Germany to achieve 40 GW of capacity by 2035, with as many as 35,000 people employed in the sector compared with around 24,000 now.