We must protect the European Wind Industry from unfair Chinese competition

By Morten Helveg Petersen, Vice-chair of the European Parliament's Committee on Industry, Research and Energy (pictured)
Winter 2023

Morten Helveg Petersen, Vice-chair of the European Parliament's Committee on Industry, Research and EnergyThe European Wind industry is facing immense challenges. I led the negotiations of the EU Offshore Renewables Energy Strategy, which was unveiled in early 2022. The strategy tackled a multitude of obstacles to the implementation of offshore renewables, charting a path toward European global exports success. However, less than two years later, Europe’s position as a worldwide wind technology leader is jeopardized by inflation, supply chain disruptions, exorbitant interest rates, sluggish permitting procedures, and the unjust competition posed by state-subsidised Chinese manufacturers. Media reports are now rife with accounts of major wind projects faltering on a weekly basis.

The importance of the European wind industry
Undoubtedly, the European wind industry is pivotal to the EU. With our goal of reducing emissions by 55% before 2030, a significant increase in renewables is imperative to achieve our climate targets. To put this into perspective, we have committed to elevating the share of renewables in the bloc’s overall energy mix to 42.5% by 2030, a substantial leap from the current 17%. Such an ambitious endeavor hinges heavily on the wind industry.Thus, the bottlenecks impeding the wind industry’s progress are cause for alarm. If we fail to heed these warnings, Europe’s position may falter, allowing China to gain a stronghold on the market. We must not permit history to repeat itself.

The solar history and security politics
While the solar industry should have been a European powerhouse, it was ultimately ceded to China, who swiftly produced superior and more cost-effective solar panels, aided by substantial state subsidies. This history is one we cannot afford to replicate. We cannot afford to lose the market, and, more importantly, it is a matter of security.

The recent events surrounding Putin’s incursion in Ukraine have underscored the fact that energy politics is synonymous with security politics. We are fervently striving to break free from reliance on Putin’s influence. We must not extricate ourselves from this situation only to plunge into another dependence relationship with China. Our sole reliance should be on our own green energy, and to achieve this, we must take action.

Europe's leading position
As the European Parliament's spokesperson on offshore renewables, I have engaged extensively with industry stakeholders, as well as Energy Commissioner Kadri Simson. Our aim is clear: We must ensure that European manufacturers have access to the necessary supplies, establish transparency and predictability for green investors, streamline bureaucratic hurdles, and safeguard the industry from unfair competition. The race in the wind industry is far from over, but we must labor effectively and diligently to uphold Europe's leading position in the field.

Fortunately, our concerns have not gone unnoticed. Ursula von der Leyen announced in her State of the European Union speech that the Commission would introduce a 'European Wind Power Package,' which was recently presented.

The Commission takes action
I am generally content with the initiatives and guidelines laid out by the Commission. New standards for auction design have been implemented, considering biodiversity and human rights, both for ethical considerations and to ensure European competitiveness.

The Chinese industry might be cheaper but does not prioritize the wellbeing of nature and people. Thus, the European industry becomes the sustainable choice for investors.

Moreover, the Commission is now committed to expediting the permitting process in member states. The call for quicker permitting is not novel, as the Commission has often vocalized this need without much success. The permitting process in member states has languished for many years, rendering the market too uncertain for substantial investment, thereby impeding progress toward climate targets and energy independence.

In its presentation, the Commission affirmed its willingness to support member states in expediting permitting through technical assistance and education. In essence, the Commission is reinforcing its call to action, demonstrating a willingness to act instead of merely speaking, and I really hope that member states will follow suit. We really need to work for quicker permitting. For the sake of our green transition and our safety.