Is Germany's offshore sector about to hit the buffers too?

Offshore wind in Germany outpaced onshore during 2019, with 1,111MW added last year, bringing the total operating offshore fleet to 7,516MW from 1,469 turbines.

EnBW's Hohe See and Albatros offshore wind projects were installed in 2019
EnBW's Hohe See and Albatros offshore wind projects were installed in 2019

All last year's 160 new turbines were installed in the North Sea, which now boasts 6,440MW of capacity, with a further 1,076MW in the Baltic Sea.

Another 16 turbines for 112MW were installed but not commissioned by the end of 2019, according to Deutsche WindGuard data.

German offshore wind generation reached 26TWh in 2019, up 25% on 2018, and accounted for 4% of overall German electricity generation and around 10% of the 243TWh from renewables last year. 

But with more wind generation in the wholesale market, German offshore wind‘s market value averaged just €34/MWh in 2019, nearly €7/MWh lower than in 2018.

Ensuing lull 

Germany has now over-achieved its 2020, 6.5GW offshore wind target, and is close to the 7.7GW cap set on offshore wind to the end of this year. 

On top of the 112MW that was not yet connected, nearly 17MW of pilot turbines are under construction while another 19.3MW of pilot projects have grid connection pledges. This would take Germany’s offshore wind total to 7.66GW. 

Offshore wind auctions in April 2017 and 2018 allocated 3.1GW of capacity for installation in 2021-2025, which means an average of just 620MW being added each year.

Permitting procedures for the projects is now under way and should lead to 10.8GW generating by the end of 2025.

Auctions for another 4.5GW for installation in 2026-2030 begin in 2021.

Five wind organisations — BWE (Bundesverband Wind-Energie), BWO (Bundesverband der Windparkbetreiber Offshore), Stiftung Offshore-Windenergie, VDMA Power Systems and WAB — called for lawmakers to swiftly allocate 2GW of idling German offshore transmission capacity to new projects in order to counter the upcoming lull in expansion, and to raise the 2030 offshore target to 20GW, from 15GW. 

They said Germany needs to aim for 30-35GW in 2035 and over 50GW in 2050 to help fill the generation gap left by Germany‘s nuclear phase-out, completed in 2022, and the coal and lignite phase-out, scheduled for 2038.

New measures

But with zero-subsidy bids from the previous round of offshore tenders setting the highest price for all upcoming offshore tenders, policy changes are needed; offshore wind parameters like distance to shore set differing economic requirements, the groups urged.

They also argued for higher CO2 prices to encourage a market for “green” hydrogen generated from offshore wind and other renewables, stressing offshore wind energy should support the government's hydrogen strategy.

Germany’s onshore transmission network expansion needs to continue apace to enable offshore generated electricity in the North and Baltic Seas to reach consumers throughout Germany, they said.

Further, Germany’s electricity taxes and levies must be altered to promote “sector coupling”, where renewables-generated electricity surplus to immediate demand can be used economically for generating synthetic gas or chemicals or heat or used in transport or other uses, instead of being curtailed, the organisations pointed out.

Germany shoulders the EU Council Presidency in the second half of 2020 and should use these positions to push towards the European Union target of 450GW of offshore wind to 2050, as deemed necessary to ensure climate neutrality within the EU by that date, said the wind organisations.

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