The strong figures posted by the wind industry in the troubled first half of 2020 were testament to the resilience of the industry. This further shows how vital wind energy will be in achieving a zero-carbon economy, argues Ivan Komusanac from trade body WindEurope
The views expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the position of FORESIGHT Climate & Energy
On paper, the European wind industry had a robust start to 2020.
It contributed to a reliable energy supply throughout the Covid-19 pandemic and increased its share in Europe’s electricity mix to 17%. Renewables’ 40% share of EU electricity in the first half of the year was the first time it exceeded fossil fuel generation, which supplied just 34%. Meanwhile, Europe managed to install 5.1 GW of new wind capacity in the first half of the year. And the 3.9 GW of new onshore wind installations was an increase compared to previous years.
To be honest, the first half of 2020 was anything but business as usual. Wind energy has shown remarkable resilience.
The challenging months due to the Covid-19 pandemic caused reduced free movement of people and goods, supply chain disruptions, national lockdowns and mandatory plant closures. Among the most affected countries were important markets like Spain and Italy. As a result, both construction activities, as well as operation and maintenance services, were delayed. Analysts consider that new installations for the year will fall roughly by 20% in 2020, which we originally forecasted to be 17.7 GW.
But make no mistake – wind energy will come back from this crisis stronger than before.
Our data shows increased investments in new wind energy projects. A record €14.3bn was invested during the first half of 2020 – despite the developments around Covid-19. This underlines investors’ appetite in wind energy projects that offer reliable, long-term revenues.
It is not just investors that are committed to renewables. Governments across Europe are too. They are now benefiting from the National Energy and Climate Plans (NECPs), which are pledging 268 GW of onshore and 71 GW of offshore wind by 2030 in the EU-27. These plans provide the industry with much-needed, long-term visibility. They are crucial to maintaining stable deployment of wind and to create vital new jobs in the sector.
Despite the progress, we still have a lot of work ahead of us. If we want to reach those targets, permitting needs to get improved as soon as possible – this is the main bottleneck for getting us on track to reach carbon neutrality. Such an increase in generation capacity will require additional grid infrastructure. And we must fast-track repowering of wind turbines as well as increasing the electrification rate of our economy.
Finally, we need to ensure that enough new volumes of wind energy are auctioned.
MORE TO DO
The wind industry is uniquely positioned to contribute to Europe’s recovery from the Covid-19 pandemic. The European Council recently agreed on a €750 billion recovery plan and specified that 30% of all recovery funds must be spent on climate protection and must contribute to cutting greenhouse gas emissions.
Electrification, storage technologies and renewable hydrogen production are other important areas and natural partners for wind energy. The EU Recovery Plan still needs to be approved by the European Parliament, but it already seems that the members will strengthen the green elements of it.
When national governments prepare their recovery and resilience plans, underpinned by EU funds, wind energy should be one of their priorities. Investments in wind energy create jobs in Europe, boost economic activity, and build a more resilient energy system. For many countries, wind energy is the cheapest source of electricity production today.
As electricity demand increases due to the electrification of the transport, buildings and industry sectors, wind energy will be tasked to generate more electricity. Electric vehicles are getting a foothold on the European market and the EU’s new Hydrogen Strategy calls for large quantities of renewable electricity to decarbonise hard-to-abate sectors like steel and heavy-duty transport with renewable hydrogen, further demonstrating the need for wind power to grow quickly.
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