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EU considers anti-subsidy probe into Chinese wind turbines

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Brussels is considering whether to investigate China’s use of subsidies to promote the country’s wind turbine manufacturers, a leading official said on Friday, despite the angry reaction from Beijing over a similar probe into electric vehicles.

Didier Reynders, the acting competition commissioner, said cheap Chinese imports could threaten European businesses.

“In the wind energy sector there are components that could be in competition with Chinese components. If there is a possibility of too much aid on the Chinese side . . . we could open an investigation in the same way [as electric vehicles],” he told France’s BFM TV.

Europe’s wind power companies have been lobbying for more support, arguing that cheap Chinese imports are pushing their own turbine manufacturers to the brink of collapse.

The move could come this month, three EU officials told the FT, as part of broader proposals aimed at boosting Europe’s wind industry.

Didier Reynders © AFP via Getty Images

It would be the second significant action against China is as many months, after commission president Ursula von der Leyen said in September Brussels would look into unfair practices in the electric vehicle market.

The move to challenge China’s increasing sales of electric vehicles in Europe prompted an angry response from Beijing, which called it a “naked protectionist act”.

A senior EU official said “sufficient elements” warranted a similar investigation into wind turbine parts. But the official acknowledged Brussels was concerned about retaliation.

“They already thought something announced in the speech of the president was too high,” the official said. “They will digest [the electric vehicles] one and adapt. If we add another, they might be really angry.”

The discussions come amid a planned visit to China over the coming days by Josep Borrell, the EU’s foreign policy chief, and Kadri Simson, the bloc’s energy commissioner.

The commission declined to comment.

Thierry Breton, the EU’s internal market commissioner, in September called for an anti-dumping or anti-subsidy investigation into wind turbines made in China.

“Chinese wind equipment manufacturers have been implementing an aggressive strategy to enter European markets,” he wrote, adding that Chinese manufacturers were offering European project developers steep discounts and the option to defer payments for up to three years.

Leading Chinese wind turbine manufacturers include Goldwind, Envision, Mingyang and Windey.

Brussels has already imposed tariffs on Chinese companies’ glass fibre fabrics, which are used in wind turbine blades. Industry concerns that the EU has become too dependent on Chinese green technologies have risen in recent years.

“[The region’s clean technology] will be manufactured outside of Europe, and Europe will simply swap its dependency on Russian gas for one on Chinese clean energy equipment,” WindEurope, a trade body for European industry, said earlier this year.

Another senior EU official said von der Leyen had started to back a strategy of supporting domestic industry and keeping out some Chinese imports.

“Without European manufacturing capacity, we don’t have control,” they said, adding that, without measures, the EU’s Green Deal of zero emissions by 2050 would be impossible to honour. “The president is starting to get it.”

Giles Dickson, chief executive of WindEurope, said broader proposals to boost the industry were being “actively discussed” by the commission and the sector. “You know what other tools [Chinese manufacturers] have at their disposal . . . [EU officials] know what we are up against,” he said, without explicitly referring to an anti-subsidy probe.

The broader proposals are set to include guidance to member states on providing direct financial support to the industry and improving auction designs for wind farms.

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