Commodity inflation squeezes profits for wind giant Vestas

One of world’s biggest makers of wind turbines cut its outlook for the year, citing commodity inflation and disruptions to supply chains.

Denmark’s Vestas Wind Systems A/S now expects full year revenue to be about three per cent lower than a previous forecast. The revised outlook comes as the renewable energy developers continue to face rising costs for raw materials like copper and steel, metals that are essential for the wind industry.

Commodities rallied in 2021 as global economies rebound from the pandemic, boosting the price of everything from oil to natural gas and steel. Higher costs had already forced Spanish turbine rival Siemens Gamesa Renewable Energy SA to report a loss earlier this year, while Vestas also lost money in the first quarter due to shipping disruptions including the blockage of the Suez Canal.

“Inflation is here,” Chief Executive Officer Henrik Andersen said in an interview on Bloomberg TV. “We see some some of these challenges still remaining with us for the rest of the year.”

The company now expects full-year revenue of 15.5 billion euros (US$18.2 billion) to 16.5 billion euros ($19.3 billion), down from previous forecast of 16 billion euros to 17 billion euros, it said in an earnings statement Wednesday.

Reduced returns for renewable energy companies come just as the world needs wind and solar farms the most. The industry needs to invest at least $92 trillion by 2050 to cut emissions fast enough to prevent the worst effects of climate change, according to BloombergNEF.

Higher material costs have forced turbine makers to raise prices for their clients. Still, that hasn’t yet impacted customer demand, Andersen said. Vestas said its wind-turbine order backlog rose to 21.2 billion euros at the end of June, up more than nine per cent from the first quarter.

While the cost of wind turbines has gone up, so have fossil fuel prices. That means there likely won’t be much change in the competitive advantage that renewables have secured in electric grids in much of the world.

Still, surging prices for key metals and higher shipping rates are going to continue to hurt Vestas at least in the short term. Steel prices in the U.S. are up more than 80 per cent this year. Steel is the single biggest input for manufacturers like Vestas, making up about 84 per cent of a turbine’s weight.

Transportation costs have roughly tripled since a year ago, Vestas CFO Marika Fredriksson said in an interview. The crunch in shipping capacity isn’t expected to ease any time this year and will likely continue into 2022, she said.

In Asia, the company is struggling to install turbines in places like Vietnam, where restrictions are in place to contain the spread of the Delta variant of the coronavirus, Freriksson said.

© 2021 Bloomberg L.P.

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