The closure of a wind turbine facility in eastern Germany raises concerns about the future of the coal area

Vestas, a Danish wind turbine manufacturer, has announced the closing of a blade facility in Brandenburg, Germany. Over 450 jobs will be lost in Lauchhammer, and two additional production sites in Spain and Denmark will be closed “as demand for these modules will progressively move to markets largely outside of Europe and be provided via more localized manufacturing facilities,” according to the firm.

According to Andreas Rausch of local public radio rbb, the decision raises doubts about Germany’s future as a leading market and driver for the critical energy transition technology. “This is a terrible signal for the entire area,” he claims, adding that the end of coal power in the eastern region of Lusatia, at the very least by 2038, is already putting a strain on local businesses.

“While the argument over a quicker coal departure becomes louder, there are no jobs to replace it in sight,” Rausch writes, despite the government’s commitment to support the transition with billions of euros. The factory’s closure, however, puts doubt on the pace of wind power growth in Germany, which has slowed substantially since 2017, but must return quickly to fulfill renewable energy objectives by 2030, he says.

Vestas’ closure is a “catastrophe” for the economy of Lauchhammer, which welcomed the factory’s debut in 2002 after years of deindustrialization following the collapse of communist eastern Germany, according to deputy mayor Jörg Rother. Jörg Steinbach, Brandenburg’s economics minister, questioned the decision, claiming that demand for wind turbines is expected to rise again. He’s in contact with Vestas to see if the decision can be “adjusted,” he added.

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The shutdown, according to the NGO Environmental Action Germany (DUH), was directly caused by political framework circumstances. Conservative politicians such as Jens Koeppen, the CDU’s top candidate in Brandenburg, and Armin Laschet, the CDU’s chancellor candidate, have long campaigned for stricter minimum distance regulations for wind turbines. While billions of euros are spent on coal firm compensation, the coal area will now lose employment in “an industry of the future.” According to DUH’s Sascha Müller-Kraenner, “this amounts to a real economic policy failure of conservative opponents of the energy transition.”

Wind power is Germany’s most significant renewable energy source, and it has to expand four times faster than it has in recent years if Germany is to phase out nuclear and fossil power plants. One of the government’s main goals in the coal withdrawal is to help the economically depressed eastern German coal areas replace lost coal employment with new ones in renewable energy generation.