Government vows action as German wind industry flags

Germany's wind power industry has lost momentum and still remains behind coal as a source of electricity
Germany's wind power industry has lost momentum and still remains behind coal as a source of electricity

The German government vowed to push through new measures to revive the country's ailing wind energy sector after hosting a crisis summit in Berlin on Thursday.

Economy and Energy Minister Peter Altmaier said he wanted to build a "national consensus" on wind power, which is a key pillar in Germany's ambitious renewables transition plan, but has struck strong resistance in recent years.

Following talks with environmental groups, industry representatives, trade unions and anti-wind activists, Altmaier said the government would start working on new legislative measures "in the next few weeks".

After years of breakneck growth in capacity and uptake that has seen wind power delivering a fifth of Germany's total energy production, vocal "not-in-my-backyard" opposition by residents and a lack of government support have seen investments shrink in the sector.

More than 600 citizen initiatives have sprung up against the giant installations, with a district called Saale-Orla even offering 2,000 euros to anyone taking action to get expert opinions opposing wind farms.

The far-right AfD party, branding itself as the climate-sceptic outfit, had seized on the topic during state elections in Brandenburg, saying it stands by residents steamrollered by wind energy corporations.

Against the backdrop of bitter division, expansion in Germany's wind power production capacity plunged in 2018 to half that in 2017 as companies struggled to obtain permission to build.

And only a few dozen new turbines have been installed since the beginning of this year, down 82 percent from a year ago, said Germany's Wind Energy Association (BWE).

And repeatedly every quarter, official tenders for electricity production have returned undersubscribed—a "worrying" trend, said the Federal Network Agency.

"With regard to the expansion of onshore wind power, Germany has moved from the fast to the breakdown lane," said Achim Derck, president of the German Federation of Chambers of Commerce and Industry (DIHK).

For BWE president Hermann Albers, the implication is clear—"this development calls into question the success of Germany's energy transition."

Ending subsidies

Market players said the tipping point came in 2016 when Germany amended its Renewable Energy Act.

After almost two decades of providing subsidies to prop up the nascent sector, Chancellor Angela Merkel's government decided that the industry was now sufficiently mature and began withdrawing support.

With obtaining building permits often taking years thanks to stubborn local opposition, projects took even longer to recoup costs, also shifting the calculation by firms whether to invest.

In the months following the 2016 amendment, the wind power sector shed 26,000 jobs in Germany, more than in the dwindling coal industry, according to figures provided by the Bundestag, Germany's lower parliament.

"We have sounded the alarm, but why the German government has chosen to go down this path remains a mystery to this day," said BWE head Albers, who feels that Berlin had put too much "emphasis on costs" in the transition to green energy.

'Tip of the iceberg'

But the crisis in the sector has now shot back up to the top of the political agenda as youths took on the climate emergency with their vocal Fridays for Future protests.

In order to meet the government's target of sourcing 65 percent of Germany's energy from renewables by 2030, the proportion of wind power will have to grow from around 20 percent currently to replace coal, which still makes up close to a quarter of the mix.

With 5,000 first generation wind turbines also up for renovation, the stakes are high.

For some however, the political attention has come too late.

"We've been asking for help for months. I don't think the government understands that it is destroying an economic ecosystem that is a source of cutting-edge engineering and innovation, that has taken time to create and has made Germany famous," Yves Rannou, head of the German wind turbine manufacturer Senvion, told AFP.

The company said last week that it is closing down, as its German revenues, which once represented 60 percent of its revenues, have shrunk to just 20 percent.

"We are only the tip of the iceberg, the first to get down on our knees, but not the last," Rannou warned.


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Sep 05, 2019
Government mandates simply invite rebellion. This same styled mandate was tried a couple towns away from where I live. A few years ago landowners living outside of our of state thought it would be a cute thing to take advantage of the tax incentives the state was putting up to install these wind turbines all across the tops of the hills overlooking their valley of million dollar homes that were built in that area for the express purpose of the isolated solitude of living near a wildlife sanctuary just a few miles away.

The town looking at the new TAX REVENUE it would get. quickly with no notice of public hearings about the environmental impact, granted approval. It wasn't until the first several 3-400 year old mammoth old growth trees across the top of the highest hill overlooking the town disappeared that the residents learned the first foundations for dozens more turbines were under construction. Real estate values dropped immediately & million dollar homes became unsellable.

Sep 05, 2019
cont'd from above:

After the residents of the valley learned what their wonderful Town Mothers & Fathers had done to undermine their quality of lifestyle, the lawsuits began to fly. They learned the town had ignored an environmental impact study as to how the wind turbines were likely to affect the raptor populations in the wildlife sanctuary just a few miles away.

A previously unknown scale model test site showed dozens of raptors had been killed flying into the turbine, but the data was deliberately buried by the politicians who would not allow publicity for public hearings to be put out, only a tiny little obscure notice was posted somewhere in town hall that no one ever reads was their excuse that no one cared about the project. The residents of the valley ceased payments of property taxes, a couple owners of spacious vacation homes simply flooded out their houses & declared them a total loss. There are ways of getting government's attention, take away their money.

Sep 05, 2019
@Benni: This is a science website, so how about providing a few references to back up your stories. You provide zero data or hard specifics. You don't even give the name of the town or the wind turbine project where this supposedly happened.

Sep 05, 2019
"The more you know about renewables, the less you like them. The more you know about nuclear, the more you like it. The only thing holding us back is ignorance, superstition and fear of the unknown."

Intermittent renewables are a trillion-euro fiasco at reducing emissions / dependence on coal/oil/gas.
Wind/solar(bird-choppers/land-intensive monstrosities) only exist to steal taxpayers' money(through subsidies/tax incentives) and to favor coal/oil/gas/fracking over carbon-free nuclear energy, a disservice in the fight against Climate Change.

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