EU to Investigate Chinese Wind Turbine Suppliers

By Philip Blenkinsop and Tassilo Hummel

April 10, 2024

EU to Investigate Chinese Wind Turbine Suppliers
© Fokke Baarssen / Adobe Stock

The EU will investigate subsidies received by Chinese suppliers of wind turbines destined for Europe, in the bloc's latest move to shield domestic firms from cheap clean tech products.

The European Commission will look into conditions for the development of wind parks in Spain, Greece, France, Romania and Bulgaria, the EU's anti-trust commissioner Margrethe Vestager said on Tuesday.

Vestager did not name the Chinese companies which will be investigated by the European Union's executive during a speech delivered at the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton, New Jersey, in the United States.

A group representing Chinese business interests in Brussels expressed its "profound dissatisfaction" over what it called protectionism and a lack of transparency from the EU as it rolls out its new rules to counter state aid from foreign actors.

"This action sends a detrimental signal to the world, suggesting discrimination against Chinese enterprises and endorsing protectionism," the China Chamber of Commerce to the EU said in a statement.

While local producers like Siemens Energy and Vestas still supply the bulk of wind turbines to Europe's wind parks, they are increasingly facing Chinese competition on the world market - potentially threatening their positions in a global race to develop more efficient, and cheaper, turbines.

Those critical of China's expansive trade policies cite similar tensions in Europe's solar market, which is stuck in a serious crisis that has pushed some local manufacturers to the brink of collapse.

"China's competitiveness as a manufacturing location, the Chinese government's push to develop the entire wind supply chain, and ambitious renewable energy targets have all played a significant role", said market intelligence provider Enerdata.

Chinese vendors profit from a booming domestic market, where local developers last year ordered wind turbines capable of generating around 100 gigawatt (GW).

This is roughly the equivalent of 100 average-sized European nuclear plants with two reactors, research firm Wood Mackenzie said. It compares to an annual average of 29 GW set by the EU to meet its 2024 climate and energy targets.

'Open competition'
The Commission is already investigating whether to impose tariffs on Chinese electric vehicle imports, saying it has evidence showing they benefit from subsidies.

Vestager said the EU needed to adopt a more systematic approach rather than case-by-case investigations, adding: "We can't afford to see what happened on solar panels happening again on electric vehicles, wind or essential chips".

Wind industry lobby group WindEurope, whose members include major turbine makers Vestas, Siemens Energy and Nordex, welcomed the probe.

"It is only natural that the (EU Commission) use the tools at its disposal to restore fair and open competition on the market," said WindEurope Chief Policy Officer Pierre Tardieu.

European manufacturers were banned from using state-backed financing to shore up their bids by offering cheaper prices or deferring payments under OECD free trade rules, Tardieu added on a conference call.

The wind power investigation will be under new EU powers which have allowed the Commission since July 2023 to assess whether foreign subsidies allow companies to submit overly advantageous offers in public tenders.

Shares in Vestas, which declined to comment, closed 0.7% higher. A Siemens Energy spokesperson also declined to comment on the EU investigation, but said that all market participants needed a level playing field.


(Reuters - Reporting by Inti Landauro, Philip Blenkinsop and Tassilo Hummel; Additional reporting by Nina Chestney, Terje Solsvik, Louise Breusch Rasmussen; Editing by Philip Blenkinsop, Jan Harvey and Alexander Smith)

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