Discussions about German politics dominated the opening panel discussion at the Windforce 2013 offshore wind conference in Bremerhaven on Tuesday.
In the run-up to German federal elections in September, politicians from the federal governing coalition sought to justify environment and economy ministries’ proposals earlier this year to contain electricity prices. These deeply unsettled the offshore wind and renewables sectors before being aborted by Chancellor Angela Merkel in .
Klaus Meier, head of offshore wind developer WPD, said that energy companies such as Stadtwerke Munich and EnBW had put projects on ice as a result of the ministries’ proposals. He raised a question mark over whether the ministries would try to resurrect them.
Ralph Lenkert of the opposition Linke (left) party pointed out that gas and petrol prices have also more than doubled over the past 14 years. The government's focus on high electricity prices was aimed at throttling renewables growth rather than protecting consumers, he argued.
Andreas Jung, managing director of German energy agency DENA, said offshore wind "will be needed to meet Germany’s renewables targets". Although the 6-8GW likely to be commissioned by 2020 may lag behind the government target of 10GW, this is still "a considerable achievement" for a new technology, he added.
Jung said offshore wind needed stable framework conditions to thrive, but was confident that capital would be available as reasonable returns on investment "can be earned".
WPD’s Meier highlighted the need to plan 15-20 years ahead. In addition to today's power demand, heating and transport are also expected to rely increasingly on electricity. Offshore wind can provide a "fundamental answer" to securing the additional supplies, he said.