Only 32 new wind turbines in the North Sea and Baltic Sea with a total rated output of 219 megawatts (MW) were connected to the German grid in the first half of 2020. As of 30th June, this increased the total rated output of the now 1501 turbines to 7760 MW according to Deutsche Windguard. For comparison: 160 turbines with a total rated output of 1111 MW went online in 2019; in 2018 it was 136 turbines with a total rated output of 969 MW. According to WindGuard analysis, only 15 of the 32 new turbines (101 MW) were erected in the current year; the others had already been erected in the previous year. In addition, no new foundations for future turbines were installed in the first half of 2020. With the newly built facilities, the German government’s expansion target had already been met in the first half of the year.
According to industry organisations German Wind Energy Association (BWE), the Federal Association of Offshore Wind Farm Operators (BWO), the German Engineering Federation VDMA Power Systems, the sector network WAB and the Offshore Wind Energy Foundation: “For a long time we have been warning that an expansion gap is imminent, not least because of the long lead time for offshore wind farms. Now we are in the middle of it. The current challenge is to keep this expansion gap as short as possible and to strengthen the domestic market for offshore wind energy in a sustainable and permanent manner”. They demand an economically efficient remuneration system for future offshore projects in addition to the fastest possible tender process for the available areas.
Criticism is being levelled at the German government’s planned design of tenders for the construction of new wind farms. Because bids of 0 cents to remunerate a kilowatt hour of electricity were received in the past, there will now be a so-called second bid component, whereby the Federal Network Agency will determine the willingness of 0-cent bidders to pay an offshore grid connection fee to be paid to the transmission system operator responsible for the connection. The government hopes that this process will reduce the cost of electricity and lead to a greater market integration of offshore wind energy. However, industry associations and the five northern German states fear that this will increase the cost of electricity generation and put stakeholder diversity at risk. As the Association of Municipal Enterprises (Verband der kommunalen Unternehmen) explains, the procedure “continues to generate speculative bidding, in which only major stakeholders can engage”. Opponents of the model advocate an alternative differential model, which would guarantee a minimum electricity price. If a certain price is exceeded, the excess proceeds would be paid back into the EEG account.
Despite these uncertainties, the industry can see the future in a positive light. In early June the Federal government passed an amendment to the Windenergie-aufSee-Gesetz (WindSeeG - Wind Energy at Sea Act), which envisages that the expansion target for offshore wind energy will be increased to 20 gigawatts (GW) by 2030; the target to date has been 15 GW. The intention is to have installed 40 GW by 2040. The offshore wind sector had long been calling for an increase to the target. In a statement, industry representatives said: “We welcome the fact that setting a target of 20 GW for offshore wind energy by 2030 and 40 GW by 2040 creates longterm planning security, particularly given the low level of new construction projects. The increased expansion targets mean that offshore wind energy will boost climate protection and lead to economic development”.
The government’s National Hydrogen Strategy (NWS) could provide an additional boost, as it requires significantly higher amounts of green electricity. “The NWS presents the opportunity to use about 3 GW of offshore wind energy for the production of green hydrogen. To this end”, the aforementioned organisations demand, “additional areas must be made available and put out to tender as quickly as possible. A system of incentives which includes efficient tax and levy mechanisms must be developed” for a rapid ramp-up of the market for green hydrogen.
As the Global Wind Energy Council (GWEC), the umbrella organisation of the industry, outlined in its Global Wind Report, at over 6 GW of new installations internationally, 2019 was the best year ever for the offshore wind industry. China and the United Kingdom led the way with 2,395 MW and 1,764 MW, followed by Germany in third place.