The growth of onshore wind energy is collapsing in Germany, according to European wind energy trade body WindEurope, and in the process is jeopardizing not only the renewable energy targets of Germany but of the whole European Union.
WindEurope spoke out last week regarding reports that there was only 134 megawatts (MW) of new onshore wind capacity installed in Germany during the first quarter of 2019 — an 87% drop as compared to the first quarter of 2018. These figures were reported by German non-profit wind association FA Wind (Fachagentur Windenergie an Land) in late April and were described as a “drastic slump” and a “temporary low point” of a larger decline which has been increasing for a year now.
According to WindEurope, Germany is likely to install between 1 GW and 2 GW in 2019 — “significantly down on the past five years” through which Germany installed an average of 4.3 GW per year, and further, well below what Germany needs in order for it to meet its 65% renewable electricity target by 2030, and to deliver on its share of the European Union’s 32% renewable energy target.
Further, as WindEurope points out, offshore wind cannot fill the gap, as Germany is only scheduled to build around 730 MW per year through to 2030.
“Onshore wind energy in Germany is in deep trouble,” said WindEurope CEO Giles Dickson.
“The development of new wind farms has almost ground to a halt. The main problem is permitting – it’s got much slower, more complex and there aren’t enough civil servants to process the applications. It seriously undermines Germany’s ability to meet its 2030 renewables target and contribute to the EU target. And it’s affecting Germany’s wind turbine industrial base. Half of Europe’s 300,000 wind energy jobs are in Germany. But 10,000 have gone in Germany in the last five years. And this could get worse: there hasn’t been a single turbine order recorded in Germany in Q1 this year.
“The German Government now needs to make clear how they’re going to reach their 65% renewables target for 2030. It needs an annual build-out of 5 GW of onshore wind – and urgent action to speed up the permitting process.” – Dickson
As Dickson explained, the primary obstacle to onshore wind development is the German permitting process, which used to only take 10 months but can now take over two years for a new project to proceed through the civil service infrastructure. According to WindEurope, Germany’s public authorities are not applying deadlines and many wind farm projects are finding themselves stuck in legal disputes. On top of this, as Dickson hinted at, there is a lack of staff to process the applications, especially at the Bundesland (State) level.
There was only 400 MW of new wind farm permits awarded in the first quarter of 2019, well below historic levels, and the overall trend has served to see the last three German onshore wind auction rounds significantly undersubscribed, which in turn has led to rising prices. Additionally, in technology neutral or combined auctions, onshore wind continues to be outperformed. Only last month the country’s solar industry walked away with 210 MW of a 200 MW auction which was heavily oversubscribed with solar.
“They’ve a clear opportunity to figure things out now with their ‘Public Acceptance Working Group’,” Dickson continued.
“The Group should agree to identify zones ripe for new wind farms. And ensure restrictions on things like distance or height of turbines aren’t out of sync with the rest of Europe. There’s plenty of space available for new wind farms in Germany. And they can build them in industrial sites like the Dutch do or alongside motorways like in France and Belgium. Repowering the early wind farms that are coming to the end of their life will also help. Replacing old turbines with modern ones doubles the capacity with one third fewer turbines. These are the kind of measures that Germany needs to stay on track with the Energiewende. But if the ‘Acceptance Working Group’ can’t sort it out, then Germany’s Climate Cabinet will have to step in with a proper action plan.”