"Hamburg is quite simply THE German offshore capital" Interview with Karina Würtz on the new Forum Wind
EEHH: Ms Würtz. You’re a member of the steering committee for the newly established EEHH Wind Forum. Please can you briefly tell our readers what motivated you to actively participate in the forum and what you expect of it.
Karina Würtz: Hello Mr Lange. I was very happy with the EEHH initiative to establish a new Forum Wind that combines aspects of both the onshore and offshore sector, especially at the current time and in Hamburg. Many people know that Hamburg has a strong onshore wind sector. But far fewer are aware that Hamburg is quite simply THE German offshore capital, where almost all operators, producers and many suppliers have major offices. In my role as Managing Director of the Offshore Wind Energy Foundation, which I’ve held for the past year, I’m pleased to be able to incorporate offshore-specific aspects as part of EEHH’s newly established Forum Wind. I’ve lived in Hamburg and worked in the offshore wind sector since 2010. I spent six years planning and constructing offshore wind farms, followed by another four years managing the Nordsee Ost offshore wind farm off the coast of Heligoland. During the summer at least, I used to take the Halunder Jet from the landing stages to Heligoland. Our turbines were made by Senvion, who had an office opposite ours in City Nord before they went bankrupt. Offshore wind has already had a major impact on Hamburg – and Hamburg is shaping the offshore wind sector in Germany.
EEHH: Have you previously been involved with EEHH?
Karina Würtz: It has repeatedly done so since 2012. Years ago, the EEHH Cluster Agency issued a publication about interface management in the offshore wind construction sector. I was involved with that. Since then, there’s been less contact, maybe because wind took a back seat compared to other renewable topics at EEHH. But all that’s about to change.
EEHH: With an expansion target of 30 GW in 2030 and up to 70 GW in 2045, the German government has set out highly ambitious plans for offshore expansion in Germany. From an industry perspective, do you think these targets are achievable and what are the biggest challenges?
Karina Würtz: At the Offshore Wind Energy Foundation, we very much welcomed the German government’s new expansions targets. Nevertheless, we consider these to be extremely challenging. The prospects for successful offshore expansion have changed since the 2010s; back then, apart from Germany, only the UK and Denmark were really active in the offshore wind sector. Things are very different today: many of the world’s coastal countries have set offshore expansion targets or are in the process of doing so. As well as the US, China, Taiwan and Japan, these also now include France, Italy, Norway, Poland and the Baltic States in Europe, for example. Globally, we’re witnessing expansion targets in South Korea, Australia, Vietnam, India and Latin America, slowly followed by East Asian island nations. This will lead to a massive run on production capacity, not only at turbine manufacturers, but also for foundations, cables and converter stations. Due to the previous government’s inconsistent offshore expansion policy, many stakeholders have left the offshore market in Germany. Since the Russian war of aggression against Ukraine, however, everyone has become painfully aware that having your own production capacity, in shipyards for example, can also lead to autonomy. I think there’s a lot of pent-up demand in Germany. Our ports must now prepare themselves for this offshore expansion in German waters and the high volumes that need to be stored and moved. This includes investment in heavy-duty quays, crane capacity and hinterland connections.
EEHH: How do you rate the content of the recently approved energy package (‘Easter package’) with regard to offshore wind energy?
Karina Würtz: It’s an important step in the right direction. The German government’s draft bill clearly endeavoured to streamline the approval process. During the ensuing parliamentary proceedings, government parties also displayed a willingness to shape industrial policy, which we very much welcome in principle. At first glance, I personally think that the specific design of the auction criteria for decarbonisation and for increasing the expansion rate that was agreed during the final stages of the process is extremely complex and difficult for auction participants to implement. However, the content stills need to be specifically reappraised with the sectors concerned.
EEHH: Which topics do you think are particularly relevant for the Wind Forum? (And for the onshore sector)
Karina Würtz: Safeguarding supply chains is an issue that will definitely become increasingly important for both onshore and offshore. I also believe that the streamlining of approval processes is important for both sectors. I’ve always had good experiences of using developments in the onshore sector to draw conclusions about anticipated future developments in the offshore sector. I’m currently taking a close look at issues regarding the co-use of space, public participation models and the major topic of sector coupling.