Restrictions on EU steel imports 'could harm wind power industry'

Imports and Exports | 16 January 2019

Targets for renewable energy production may be missed if new steel tariffs are applied, it has been claimed.


Putting stricter limits on steel imports into Europe could damage the wind power industry and hamper the EU's efforts to increase renewable energy production.

This is according to the lobby group WindEurope ahead of a vote this week on a proposal from the European Commission to restrict steel imports from third countries to the EU until July 2021.

Steel industry association Eurofer claims that member states and the metal industry support the proposed limitations, but WindEurope's Giles Dickson insists that any tariffs on steel imports will increase the price of wind energy.

He said this could leave offshore wind developers struggling to find enough building materials for turbines and meet demand for wind farms, something he compared to "chasing seats in musical chairs".

Steel currently makes up more than half of the material used in the production of wind turbines, and sometimes up to 90 per cent, depending on the manufacturer.

Tariffs may add 18 per cent to the price of workings such as gears and foundations, offsetting progress made by the wind industry and putting European turbine manufacturers at a disadvantage compared to their Chinese counterparts, Mr Dickson said.

The European Commission has attempted to protect the steel industry in Europe from the global trade wars by applying a 25 per cent tariff on steel imports last July, which takes effect once a quota for predefined import volumes has been exceeded.

However, it now wants to relax the rules so that limits on import volumes for each steel category would go up by five per cent a year until 2021.

Although Mr Dickson welcomed the move to increase steel import volumes based on a mixed system of global and country-specific tariff-rate quotas, he insisted the five per cent rise is too low.

"We call on European countries and the Commission to agree a higher annual rate of increase in non-tariff volumes than the proposed five per cent when they vote," he added.

Last year, the EU agreed to a new, binding target to source 32 per cent of its energy from renewable sources by 2030. The current share of renewables in the wider EU mix stands at just over 17 per cent.