Vestas: The European picture for wind energy is bleak

The boss of the world’s biggest wind turbine manufacturer, Vestas, has warned that the wind energy sector in Europe remains fairly stagnant, in remarks that deal a blow to governments’ hopes of constructing new industries around renewable technologies.

Answering Energy Source readers’ questions, Ditlev Engel warned of a “lack of momentum in Europe”. He said:

We have, so to speak been holding our breath for a very, very long time in this region – and not by accident.

But today, when almost all countries in the area are struggling to get their economies back together, we must face the fact that uncertainty – even by 2011 – will remain significant around Europe.

Even with government support, Engel warned that manufacturing wind turbines in northern Europe is simply too expensive – hence Vestas’ decision to cut 3,000 jobs. He said:

The announced changes primarily affect our factories and organisation in Denmark, as the production costs in northern Europe are too high. Today, it is cheaper for Vestas to manufacture a turbine in Spain and ship it to Sweden – compared to having it produced in Denmark and shipped to our neighbouring country.

This will be especially disappointing for the UK, which hopes to build a whole industry on the back of offshore wind, even spending £60m to regenerate ports so the right infrastructure can be built. The government predicted 70,000 jobs would be generated on the back of that decision – that figure looks less certain now.

The full Q&A is published above, part one and part two. In the meantime, email your questions for Yvo de Boer, former head of climate change at the UN, to energysource@ft.com.

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