EU’s von der Leyen pledges more support for wind industry

By Kate Abnett

BRUSSELS (Reuters) -The European Union will put forward a package of measures to support its wind power industry as renewable energy companies struggle with challenges including inflation, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said on Wednesday.

“We will fast-track permitting even more. We will improve the auction systems across the EU. We will focus on skills, access to finance and stable supply chains,” von der Leyen said in a speech to the European Parliament.

Shares in wind turbine makers Siemens Energy, Vestas and Nordex, which have all suffered losses in relation to the wind industry’s flawed market design, were up between 1.6% and 4.4% on the news.

The 27-country EU has among the world’s most ambitious targets to expand renewable energy and is finalising a legally binding goal to produce 42.5% of EU energy from renewable sources by 2030.

But Europe’s offshore wind power industry has warned governments it is not big enough to deliver green power goals and requires a jump in policy support to get on track – particularly if new wind farms are to be manufactured in Europe.

“The future of our clean tech industry has to be made in Europe,” von der Leyen said.

Final investment decisions in European offshore wind farms hit a 10-year low in 2022, as developers faced record-high inflation, soaring interest rates, increased seabed leasing fees and volatile energy markets.

Energy industry lobby Eurelectric welcomed the EU announcement, but called for urgent support to upgrade Europe’s power grids to handle a large influx of renewable energy.

The European Commission has said power grid investments of 584 billion euros ($627 billion) are needed from 2020 to 2030 to meet green goals.

Europe’s efforts to curb climate change are facing increasing political pressure ahead of EU elections next year, including from von der Leyen’s own political group, which has opposed new EU nature laws that would affect farmers.

Von der Leyen vowed to “stay the course” on Europe’s green agenda, promising talks with industries – including agriculture – concerned about their role in the green transition.

($1 = 0.9317 euros)

(Reporting by Kate Abnett; Additional reporting by Christoph Steitz; Editing by Louise Heavens and Mark Potter)