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EU Policy. EU to probe Chinese wind turbine subsidies

 A community owned wind farm in Sprakebuell, Germany. The EU is worried subsidised Chinese firms could undercut domestic turbone producers.
A community owned wind farm in Sprakebuell, Germany. The EU is worried subsidised Chinese firms could undercut domestic turbone producers. Copyright AP Photo/Frank Molter
Copyright AP Photo/Frank Molter
By Robert HodgsonEuronews
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The European Commission has announced an inquiry into suspected illegal subsides for Chinese wind turbine producers, amid fears the domestic industry could be decimated by cheap imports.

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The EU executive has launched a probe into wind farm developments across Europe. It comes amid concerns that state subsidies are allowing Chinese producers to undercut domestic turbine manufacturers, as the bloc looks to accelerate its clean energy transition.

The move, announced by European Commission executive vice-president Margrethe Vestager during a lecture at Princeton University in the US, comes six months after EU trade officials launched a similar anti-subsidy investigation into the import of battery electric vehicles (BEV) from China.

“I can announce today that we are launching a new inquiry into Chinese suppliers of wind turbines,” Vestager said. “We are investigating the conditions for the development of wind parks in Spain, in Greece, in France, in Romania and in Bulgaria.”

The Danish politician, famous for her resolve in leading anti-trust investigations into US tech giants, said China had already dominated the solar panel industry by attracting foreign investment, acquiring technology and granting “massive subsidies” to domestic suppliers before exporting cheaply.

“The result is that nowadays, less than 3% of the solar panels installed in Europe are produced in Europe,” Vestager said. “We can’t afford to see what happened on solar panels, happening again on electric vehicles, wind or essential chips,” she said.

The EU executive in Brussels confirmed the launch of the probe. "Based on information available to the Commission, there are indications that certain wind manufacturers and other companies active in the internal market may benefit from foreign subsidies which grant them an unfair advantage over their competitors and which may lead to distortions of competition," a spokesperson said.

"The requests for information sent today will allow the Commission to investigate the matter further," the official added. "Under the Foreign Subsidies Regulation, the Commission has the power to investigate the existence and the effects of foreign subsidies and impose regressive measures once a distortion of competition has been established."

Domestic wind turbine producers have long been urging EU leaders to protect them from unfair overseas competition. In a wind power ‘action plan’ published last October, the EU executive warned of possible future competition probes, alongside measures to address permitting bottlenecks, a skills shortage, and access to key raw materials.

Reacting to the news today, the Brussels-based trade association WindEurope said Chinese suppliers were already encroaching on the EU market by offering turbines at half the price of domestic manufacturers.

“We fully understand the Commission’s rationale,” the lobby group's director Giles Dickson said.

“Chinese wind turbine manufacturers are offering much lower prices than European manufacturers and incredibly generous financing terms with up to three years deferred payment," Dickson said. "You can’t do that without unfair public subsidy.

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