Race against global warming: Wind power industry hopes for 2023

Dhe race between global warming and greenhouse gas reduction is on, and no one knows how it will end. A central component of decarbonization is the restructuring of the electricity industry. For years, the expansion of renewable energies has not progressed as required in view of the ambitious climate targets. The same applies to the expansion and upgrading of the power grids, especially the large overhead power lines from north to south. By far the most important supplier of green electricity is the wind power on land, also called “onshore”. According to figures from the BDEW energy association, it accounts for around 17 percent of gross electricity generation in Germany, with only lignite being more important at 20 percent. But that should end in West Germany in 2030 and in the East by 2038 at the latest.

Although the expansion of wind power in 2022 was stronger than in the previous year, it still fell far short of expectations and needs, according to the Federal Wind Energy Association BWE and the association VDMA Power Systems as a trade association for mechanical and plant engineering announced on Wednesday in Berlin. The summary is sobering: “The increase on land is still too low to achieve the goals of the federal government.” However, there is hope for 2023, because in the current year systems with a record output are in the tender, it said in the submission the latest expansion figures.

According to an evaluation by the company Deutsche Wind-Guard on behalf of the two associations, 551 new onshore wind turbines with an installed capacity of 2403 megawatts (MW) were installed last year. This means that around 28,400 systems with 58,100 MW are now connected to the grid in Germany. Gross additions increased by about a quarter in 2023 compared to 2021. The increase was far too small to achieve the targets, said Dennis Rendschmidt, Managing Director of Power Systems. In order to improve the situation, more space would have to be made available, approvals accelerated, transport simplified and the sluggish certification of the plant towers eased. “The measures taken so far are not enough. We now need to ramp up projects as quickly as possible,” says Rendschmidt. “That would be an urgently needed positive industrial policy signal for the entire supply chain in Germany and Europe.”

Hermann Albers, President of the BWE Wind Association, pointed out that the projects implemented in 2022 were based on tenders since 2019: “The numbers remain sobering for the fifth year in a row.” He attributed the weak expansion to the previous black-red government under the Chancellor Angela Merkel and Economics Minister Peter Altmaier (both CDU). The past legislature “burdens” on the industry, there have been “political mismanagement of the last federal government”. On the other hand, Albers praised the red-green-yellow government under Chancellor Olaf Scholz (SPD) and Economics Minister Robert Habeck (Greens). “The traffic light coalition has used its first year in office to set the course for the significantly accelerated expansion of renewable energies in many areas and here in particular for the top performer wind.” Therefore, a peak volume of 12.84 gigawatts is available for tender in the current year .

2023 as the “year of departure”?

Both associations appealed to the federal states to “use the toolbox provided by the federal government and quickly enable significantly more expansion”. With a dig at the CSU-led Bavaria, Albers said: “The south in particular must finally deliver and must not shirk responsibility.” If everything goes well, 2023 could “be the year of departure”. The industry praised the new Renewable Energy Sources Act, the space requirements and the easier construction near radar systems, but still misses the steps originally announced as a “summer package”. The approval procedures are still too complicated and lengthy. The planned law to speed up proceedings is overdue.

With reference to the expansion of sea terminals for landing and regasification of liquefied natural gas (LNG) on the North Sea, which was achieved within a few months, Albers demanded: “We also need the LNG speed for wind energy.” If existing systems are upgraded or replaced with new ones (repowering ), up to 45,000 MW could be mobilized in the short term. The EU must promote domestic manufacturers, also in response to the American Inflation Reduction Act.

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