An industry in pain – just when the world has never needed it more: WindEurope 2022

The mood music from this week’s WindEurope 2022 event in Bilbao was best summed up by Jochen Eickholt, Siemens Gamesa’s newly installed CEO, when he said: “many of us are suffering”.

Eickholt’s comments were among a host of similar pronouncements from the Western wind power supply chain as it struggles to stay afloat under unprecedented global pressures beyond its control, even prompting Ireland’s environment minister to call for “emergency” measures to help it through the worst.

Recharge, again official event media partner at the event, reported a string of big-hitting executives from the likes of GE Renewable Energy, Nordex and Enercon warning that the industry is now in a “self-destructive loop” of inadequate tender volumes and unsustainably low auction bids by developers, with the squeeze then passed on to the supply chain.

Nordex’s CEO José Luis Blanco in an exclusive interview with Recharge said Russia’s attack on Ukraine had heaped on new uncertainty, just as the sector was starting to recover from the impacts of the Covid pandemic.

As for the solutions to the industry woes the answer came loud and clear: more volumes from regular auctions to expand supply of potential projects and help the supply chain plan, and faster permitting of new wind farms on land and sea.

Thankfully there were glimmers of hope during the week of Bilbao that Europe’s major economies are getting the message, with Germany’s ‘Easter Package’ and the UK’s ‘Made in Britain’ energy strategy both putting wind centre-stage – albeit strictly offshore only in the latter case.

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The irony of wind power’s cries of pain coming just when the industry is now being feted as the solution to two of Europe’s, and the world’s, biggest problems – with energy independence joining the climate fight imperative – was not lost on those in Bilbao.

Newly appointed WindEurope chairman Sven Utermöhlen told the event’s conference that “energy security requires more homegrown wind energy, with technology that is developed and ‘Made in Europe’” as he joined others in calling on governments to decide auctions on more than just price.

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, of course, was at the forefront of the energy security debate, with consultancy DNV predicting that the war will speed decarbonisation through both renewables and hydrogen.

But Russia was not the only topic linked to energy security, with Samuel Leupold, chairman of Macquarie’s offshore wind arm Corio Generation, among several to warn that Europe risks swapping dependence on Vladimir Putin’s gas for reliance on energy transition raw materials from China.

Supply chain and other pressures aside, there was plenty to cheer in Bilbao for an industry that Corio CEO Jonathan Cole in an exclusive interview with Recharge said is poised for massive global expansion on all fronts, as exemplified by a declaration from key European governments, developers and transmission operators to drive wind and grid expansion.

There was also technical innovation aplenty from the likes of Vestas – which unveiled the world’s biggest onshore turbine to date, as reported in a Recharge exclusive – Enercon with its ‘E-nacelle’ and a link-up between Siemens Gamesa and SSE to add green hydrogen capabilities to a Scottish wind farm.

You can still see all Recharge‘s coverage from the week in Bilbao at our special Live Centre site for the event

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