Panel discussion: “Offshore wind in Germany – from pole position to running behind!”
Moderated by science journalist Daniel Münter, representatives from politics, transmission system operators, wind farm developers, energy companies and plant manufacturers discussed the status of the German energy transition.
On the one hand, the industry has developed impressively in the last 20 years and has grown rapidly. Technical developments, in the form of higher-performance turbines (the 10 MW limit will soon be breached), fundamentals for various oceanographic requirements (or soon even the omission of such requirements due to the development of floating technology) or more flexible options for feeding into the grid, should improve cost effectiveness. On the other hand, however, after the early boom years, the German offshore wind industry has fallen behind its international competitors, particular those in Asia. The aim to boost offshore capacity to 15 GW by 2030 falls short in many respects. All participants in the discussion agreed that there was an urgent need to accelerate the expansion of offshore wind energy to aim for at least 20 GW by 2030 and 30 GW by 2035, both for the sake of capacity utilisation in the industry and climate protection targets. In this respect, the Cuxhaven Appeal 2.0 to increase the cap on the expansion volume was reiterated. At the current rate, only 55% of electricity, rather than 65%, could be generated from renewable energy by 2030. Furthermore, all the participants were in agreement that policymakers needed to take decisive steps immediately to implement the climate protection targets set out in the Paris Agreement and to strengthen the domestic market to prevent a brain drain.
The power-to-X trend was an even more prominent feature this year. Power-to-heat is considered the most effective system for storing energy but the concept works best at a cross-sector level. Mobility and building heat must be powered by renewable energy in order to make a significant difference in sustainability in the entire energy sector. The participants contended that power-to-hydrogen had great potential, as Germany’s large gas infrastructure can be used to store hydrogen. Power-to-fuel is also a promising option in terms of a partnership with the aviation industry. Finally, power-to-data is suitable for server farms located close to offshore electricity generation.
Tim Meyerjürgens, Member of the Board (COO) of the transmission system operator TenneT
“We are lagging behind significantly in terms of expanding the grid and we have a major problem with social acceptance. This is one reason why Germany has fallen behind at a global level with regard to the expansion of offshore wind energy. Therefore, in order to ensure that 65% of electricity will be generated from renewable energy by 2030, we need to expand the grid from the 3,000 kilometres that is currently under construction or at the planning stage to 12,000 kilometres. While additional utilisation of capacity of 30 to 40% is possible with dynamic line rating, this on its own is not sufficient.”
Dr Simone Peter, President of the German Renewable Energy Federation (Bundesverband für Erneuerbare Energien e. V., BEE)
“The phasing out of coal must mean a greater concentration on wind energy. In order to be able to achieve the climate targets, these capacities must be used to continuously promote offshore expansion. A discussion on this issue is urgently needed this year. The signs for this are good, as the economies of scale in all technologies have been considerable in recent years. However, an overall concept for the success of the energy transition is still not in place.”
Dr Julia Verlinden, spokeswoman on energy policy for the Bündnis 90/Die Grünen parliamentary party
“The phasing out of coal is not yet proceeding quickly enough. As a result, we need to drastically increase the share of renewable energy – to at least 35 GW by 2035 if current consumption rates continue. However, we also need to find a balance between grid expansion and the conservation of nature. There is frequently a lack of consistency with regard to grid expansion issues; the Federal Government needs to make even greater efforts to rally behind the energy transition. The cap on onshore wind capacity due to the grid bottleneck area was not justified.”