German onshore wind energy growth has collapsed with new installations now almost coming to a halt. A crisis meeting on Thursday 5 September – convened by the German Federal Minister for Economic Affairs & Energy, Peter Altmaier – needs to identify urgent steps to put wind energy back on track.
Germany is likely to install less than 1.5 GW of onshore wind power this year. This is significantly down on the past five years when Germany installed an average of 4.3 GW per year. It built just 287 MW in the first half of 2019 – well behind France and only slightly ahead of Ukraine.
Current installation levels are well below what Germany needs to meet its own 65% renewable electricity target by 2030 and to deliver its share of the EU’s 32% renewable energy target. The German Renewables Association BEE has estimated that an annual installation of 4.7 GW of onshore wind is needed to reach these targets. It’s also affecting jobs: the wind industry used to employ 150,000 people in Germany. 25,000 of those jobs have gone in the last two years.
Some of the slowdown in Germany is due to its failed auction system in 2017, dominated by so-called “community projects” which did not need a permit to bid. Most of these still have not been built. And many of them will not be built as planned if at all. But the underlying problem is that permitting has got slower and more complex in recent years, now taking over two years for new wind farms instead of 10 months previously. Even projects that are approved are often caught in legal disputes. This meant that onshore wind auctions in 2019 so far have been under-subscribed due to a lack of eligible projects able to bid.
11 GW of onshore wind capacity is stuck in various stages of the permitting process in Germany. That’s roughly equivalent to the entire installed wind capacity of Denmark and the Netherlands combined.
WindEurope CEO Giles Dickson said: “Onshore wind in Germany is in trouble. This threatens both Germany’s and the EU’s renewables targets. Jobs are under pressure: half of Europe’s 300,000 wind energy jobs are in Germany. But we lost 25,000 of them in 2016 and 2017. We’re looking for the German Federal and State Governments to provide strong signals on how they’re going to fix the crisis in Europe’s biggest wind market. That should include a commitment on a target of at least 2% of land reserved for onshore wind farms, which is now a widely-accepted goal. Federal, State and local authorities should also commit to make wind farm permitting easier and faster. And the law that prevents the installation of wind farms within 15km of radar installations needs to be relaxed. Germany will only reach its renewable energy targets if it takes urgent steps to put onshore wind back on track”.