With a total output capacity of more than 5.3 GW, offshore wind turbines make an increasing contribution to the security of Germany’s energy supply. They deliver clean power almost around the clock, every day of the year; industry representatives from AGOW, the BWE, the German Offshore Wind Energy Foundation, VDMA Power Systems and the WAB explained in Berlin during the presentation of the latest expansion figures for offshore wind energy.
According to an analysis of Deutsche WindGuard, a total of 1,169 wind turbines with an installed capacity of 5,387 MW were connected to the grid on 31 December 2017. Following the figures from AG Energiebilanzen, offshore wind turbines increased their power generation to 18.3 TWh in 2017. That is almost 50 percent more than in 2016 (12.3 TWh).
However, the reduction of the expansion path for wind energy at sea, as envisaged in the German renewables regulation (EEG) in 2017, particularly at the start of the 2020s, is slowing down this positive development of the offshore wind industry in Germany. Therefore, Cuxhavener Appell, initiated by Germany´s coastal states, trade unions and the offshore wind industry back in September 2017, called for an expansion of the offshore wind target to at least 20 GW by 2030 and 30 GW by 2035. Only higher expansion volumes in Germany and throughout the whole of Europe will ensure further and permanent cost reductions, as well as innovations in technological development. Furthermore, the free converter capacities that will arise following the tender results in Germany in spring 2018 should be used promptly. The results to date from the exploratory talks between the parties CDU, CSU and SPD also make this a logical course of action. The massive cost reductions in renewable energy open up new potential and clearly show that the relatively young technologies are now largely competitive to other forms of power generation.
A greater expansion of renewable energies is also necessary from a climate policy perspective. To achieve its domestic and international climate targets, the new federal government must create a political framework limiting the emission intensive power generation, whilst ensuring a higher expansion volume for renewable energies, and thereby adapting the energy system accordingly.
Higher expansion volume for more value creation and employment
Furthermore, a higher expansion volume in the offshore wind energy sector is highly important for more employment and value creation in Germany as an industrial location. Around 20,000 people are currently employed in the German offshore wind industry, at an annual turnover of approximately two billion Euro. Germany accounts for roughly 40 percent of all offshore wind industry employees across Europe. Although final production for the turbine manufacturers predominantly takes place in the north of Germany, the supply industry is spread across all federal states, in particular in North Rhine-Westphalia, Baden-Württemberg and Bavaria. Many companies in eastern Germany are also important suppliers to the wind industry.
Manufacturers and suppliers therefore need the prospect of their production capacities being utilized to retain and add industrial jobs. A stable and sustainable domestic market is the basis for expanding exports of European wind energy technologies. Wind turbine manufacturers currently have an export quota of more than 70 percent. Alongside Germany, Great Britain and the Netherlands are also showcasing new technologies and are attractive markets for offshore technologies. And the progress continues – manufacturers are now already working on turbines in the 10 MW class and beyond. It is therefore important to implement the plans for a test field for prototypes in German waters as soon as possible.
Germany can only retain its technological leadership in the field of offshore wind energy through intensified efforts in research and development. Future energy policy should not be oriented towards current technological knowledge – it must be open for innovation.
Priority for grid expansion and sector coupling
In addition to the expansion of renewable energies, the success of the energy transition in Germany is also dependent to a large extent upon grid expansion and the progress within sector coupling. Therefore, the new federal government must make the expansion of the large transmission grids a priority. It is vital to avoid further delays. Furthermore, all technical possibilities must be utilized in order to temporarily or permanently avoid bottlenecks in the grid. These include measures for improving the capacity of the existing grid. It is also important to check the amount of must-run capacities necessary for system stability.
Moreover, the regulatory obstacles to the further coupling of energy sectors must be removed as soon as possible. The mobility solutions of the future must be demonstrably based on renewable sources. Furthermore, access to heat grids needs to be improved and the barriers to direct delivery to industry must be eliminated.