German project director shares community outcomes at MREC conference
By Teresa Martin
Military base reductions. Tourism dropping. Fishing declining. By 2006, Germany's North Sea communities stood at a crossroads.
That's when the port of Cuxhaven made a decision. It wanted "permanent high quality jobs" Dr. Hans-Joachim Stietzel told a group of marine energy industry developers this week in Cambridge, MA. And wind was the best path to get there.
Stietzel, Managing Director of Cuxhaven Harbor Development Company and head of economic development for the city of Cuxhaven, spoke this week to attendees of the New England Marine Renewable Energy Center's (MREC) technical conference, held in Cambridge and hosted by the Dartmouth-based research and industry consortium.
The conference, now in its third year, draws industry and researchers who are developing wind, tidal, and wave energy technologies.
Southern MA a natural
Massachusetts' South Coast region, running from Cape Cod, along Buzzards Bay, through New Bedford and Fall River, shares many attributes in common with Germany's North Sea communities - and proponents say it could create successes like Cuxhaven's.
In fact, MREC dubs South Coast the "focal point" for offshore energy development and the hub of the marine renewable energy supply chain.
A look at Cuxhaven
Cuxhaven is a coastal town in northern Germany. Along one side of the region lies the North Sea. Along the other, stretches 12 km of vacation destination beaches, lining the shore of the Elbe River.
Much like the SouthCoast, Cuxhaven and its sister cities on the North Sea suffered through the past several decades with a continual drop in fishing, shipping, and other sea-based industries. Jobs, income, and industries shrunk. Tourism, long a regional economic sector, also declined.
Meanwhile, the European Union made a commitment to renewable energy, with Germany itself having a goal of 30% of consumed energy to come from renewable sources by 2020 and a challenge to generate 25,000 megawatts by 2030. Wind forms a critical part of the mix.
Between $60 and $100 billion Euros, the equivalent of about $80-135 billion US dollars, have been targeted for wind energy development to reach that 2030 goal. Of those dollars, 30% goes to turbines, while 70% goes to all the support elements of turbines.
For Cuxhaven, opportunity lay within that 70%.
Stietzel said the city made a strategic decision to establish itself as a base port for deep-water wind turbines. It would target companies that produce or install turbines, as well as companies that serve as suppliers and vendors to the industry.
Its natural geography placed it at firmly within Northern Europe's key sea routes and it went to work building essential infrastructure and reaching out to industry.
Jobs, jobs, jobs
The result of a planned strategy, regional political and business support for the strategy, and aggressive execution of the strategy can be summed up in one word: jobs.
To date, 2,170 new jobs - including many highly skilled and well-paid jobs - have been created in Cuxhaven, a region with approximately 52,000 residents. The city predicts that number to grow to 3,650 by 2014.
The strategy grew a new industrial segment, without displacing existing sectors. As a side benefit it also raised the skill level of the region's workers.
In addition, it integrated local and regional enterprises into the supply chain. That means existing businesses prospered and took on new business filling the needs of the new businesses and newly employed workers.
The strategy attracted dollars to the region, too. Stietzel cited figures showing 200M Euros ($270M US) in public sector investment and $180M Euros ($243M US) in private sector investment in the Cuxhaven region between 2006 and 2012.
He also said the city expects an additional combined $250M ($338M US) Euros of investment between 2013 and 2016.
The results even include an unanticipated growth in visitors to the region. An Offshore Competence Center has turned out to be draw - Stietzel said about 30,000 people have headed to the city specifically for the center - and is bringing visitor dollars to complement the more traditional tourism trade.
For Cuxhaven, the winds have clearly changed direction dramatically from a decade ago. All it took was a little market demand for rugged steel tube towers and 25 meter tall tri-piles, combined with a quest for renewable energy, and city leadership with the will and strategy to take advantage of it all.