Vestas says lack of certainty will kill wind energy in Australia | RenewEconomy

Vestas says lack of certainty will kill wind energy in Australia

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Vestas CEO Ditlev Engel says bipartisan support for renewables needs to extend beyond next election, because lack of certainty will kill capital intensive wind industry. He notes other countries are maintaining and expanding renewable targets, and concedes storage will be the “game-changer” for the technology.

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The CEO of Vestas Wind Systems, the world’s leading wind turbine manufacturer, has reiterated his call for certainty over the country’s renewable energy policies, saying that lingering doubts would “kill” a capital intensive industry such as wind energy.

Ditlev Engel, who is in Australia for the formal opening this week of Australia’s largest wind farm, the 420MW Macarthur project in south-west Victoria, which boasts 140 Vestas wind turbines, said Australia currently has bipartisan support for the renewable energy target, but he could not look into a “crystal ball” to see what would happen post a September election.

The renewable energy industry in Australia is becoming increasingly nervous about what a conservative government would mean for the future of large scale renewable energy developments in Australia.

The Coalition has recently branded renewables as “expensive”, and underlined its support for another review of the RET in 2014 and indicated its sympathies for the argument that Australia does not need new capacity because of lower than expected demand. In the meantime, utilities have virtually shut up shop on new contracts for wind farms, developers say.

Engel is acutely aware of how a change of policies can effect business. One of his first jobs at Vestas in 2005 was to fly to Australia to open a blade factory – one of two manufacturing plants it operated in Australia. Not long afterwards, after the then Coalition government rejected an independent recommendation to extend the Mandatory Renewable Energy Target, Engel flew back out to Australia as the CEO to close them down.

“We had to close both of them – because of the lack of certainty,” he told RenewEconomy in an interview on Tuesday. And he said there was now little chance of any new local manufacturing for blades and nacelles being created in Australia, even if the country had great prospects for a flourishing wind industry and for local jobs.

“Australia has something that other countries really envy – it’s got a lot of wind and it has got a lot of space. That’s not a bad place to start,” he told RenewEconomy in an interview on Tuesday.

“I know you guys have an election in September.  We will need to see what happens after the election.

“I think that Australia will benefit most from a long term energy policy that is supported by either side of the parliament. My understanding is that the RET is pretty much supported by everybody, but I don’t have a crystal ball. We will have to cross that bridge when we come to it.”

Engel said it was more challenging to maintain the momentum for new renewable energy projects in economies which had already had sufficient capacity to meet overall demand.

“People says we have enough capacity from fossil fuels, so they ask why we should make this energy transfomation. But need to make this energy transformation because it comes at different (environmental) costs going forward.

“It’s much better to keep on doing it on an ongoing basis,  rather than waiting for it to pile up in front of you and then you have to pay a massive amount to make that transformation. It has to come on a continued basis.

“In many countries around the world – I cannot recall people saying we will give up on this. Even in US, the renewable portfolio standards are in place. In the EU, they are staying, and they are looking to increase them. Countries are sticking to targets, and in some cases increasing them.”

Engel said even in the US, despite the shale gas boom, more wind energy (13GW) was installed in 2012 than new gas plants.

Engel said Vestas currently had a 50 per cent share of the installed capacity in Australia, even though its ranking as the world’s number 1 manufacturer is now being challenged.

However, he remained confident that wind energy would continue to expand. “The technology does work and it works very well,” he said.

Energy storage would, however, be important for future of wind. ”If someone is going to do that that will be a game changer for wind industry.

“The phone I am using now, is so much different to what it was 10 years ago. I don’t think we can say what it will be like in 10 years, but there is a lot of investment in supporting technologies and if someone can crack the code of the storage – that will be the ipad of the wind industry.”

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4 Comments
  1. Hamish Cumming 7 years ago

    It is a shame Macarthur has already killed 2 eagles this last week and it is not even officially opened yet.
    Also resident Brolga have fled the site, and the flocking site in the wind farm has been abandoned by the birds completely this year. USA studies have shown cranes abandon wind farm areas for around 5km. Native bird studies in Australia have shown the same thing. Three Brolga have been reported killed at Victorian wind farms in the last year, but the wind farm companies keep denying it.
    Macarthur is a poorly placed wind farm that is displacing and killing threatened species.
    The wind farm consultants said this would never happen when they went to the planning department years ago. DSE staff and locals said the evidence was there to show the deaths would occur. And now they are occurring.
    Stop putting wind farms in highly valuable threatened species habitat areas. There is so little habitat left, where are these birds supposed to go. Less than 450 southern Brolga are left now, if habitat is not protected, their numbers will fall fast, then the southern Brolga will be gone forever.
    Wind farms are not worth the loss of a species.
    And for those that say the Brolga has plenty of relations in the north, sorry you are wrong. The Northern Brolga is believed to have interbred with the sarus crane, leaving our 450 birds to be possibly the only true blood line of the species in existence.
    Protect them please, don’t make them extinct.
    Hamish.

    • Louise 7 years ago

      Hello Hamish Cumming,

      Interesting comment.
      Could you also write a comment on coal and CSG and their environmental impact?

      It would be nice to have a balanced view.
      I am assuming that you are a volunteer commentator and not one of the many lobbyists paid to do a job for fossil fuel industries.

      I saw a video on Youtube recently where a researcher investigated wind turbine bird kill and he found that you can dramatically decrease bird kill by going up higher.

      In other words if you build a turbine with the axis 200 meters up in the air and 100 meters blade you would dramatically reduce bird kill as most birds that do get killed by wind turbines fly 30 to 60 meters above ground.

      Any thoughts on that?

    • Simon Holmes a Court 7 years ago

      hamish,

      you have previously claimed that the two turbines at leonards hill have killed two brolgas. on behalf of hepburn wind, i have asked you to provide information and you have declined. if your claim was true, we’d be very concerned. i’d imagine that you’d be bending over backwards to show the evidence, and you’d probably collect some kind of award for proving that brolgas frequent the area.

      you have also made quite a spectacle in the national press with claims that wind turbines don’t abate CO2 and have even claimed at VCAT that large coal generators are fudging their carbon accounting in order to protect wind investments. when invited to present your theory to experts equipped to peer review it, you have declined.

      as i’ve said to you personally, i admire your passion and tenacity — but with your history of making unsubstantiated/unprovable claims and evading scrutiny, why should readers believe you that macarthur has killed two eagles in the past week?

      is there any evidence for your most recent claim?

      simon

  2. Malcolm 7 years ago

    John Kenneth Galbraith: “Politics is not the art of the possible. It consists in choosing between the disastrous and the unpalatable.”

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