Half of EU electricity from wind by 2050

This article is part of our special report Wind Energy.

Half of the EU’s electricity requirements could be fuelled by wind power by 2050 according to a report by the European Wind Energy Association (EWEA), which has renewed calls for the Commission to impose a target for renewable energy beyond 2020.

Wind energy currently meets 5.3% of the EU’s electricity consumption. EWEA’s report – called “Pure Power” – claims that figure could more than treble by 2020 arriving at 18.4% of EU electricity demand.

The figure is an optimal one, and EWEA also admit that the rise could only be to 15.4%, which conforms to the broad consensus of projections from other sources.

For example the projection derived from adding all the National Renewable Energy Action Plans (NREAPs) suggests wind energy could reach 14% of EU demand by 2020.

Similarly the Commission’s own projections – compiled using the PRIMES energy model by the E3M Lab at the National Technical University of Athens in 2009 – claims wind energy would meet 14.2% of total consumption by 2020.

Radical claims for 2030/2050

Where EWEA’s projections part from the norm are in the group’s radical claims for the potential share of the electricity market wind could take by 2030 (28.5%) and 2050 (50%).

One reason why EWEA claims that such large share of the market can be taken by wind is that these figures are for the electricity market exclusive of central heating and transport – two very large net users of energy.

Such targets would take the EU from 19% renewable electricity today, to an expected 34% in 2020, and to 100% renewable electricity by 2050, according to EWEA.

But the group insists that these figures will only be attainable if policymakers put the right conditions in place.

EWEA Commission must act to impose targets

Justin Wilkes, EWEA’s head of policy, said EU renewables legislation is needed for the period after 2020. He told EURACTIV that the targets imposed to that date by the Commission had had a beneficial effect, but added that more targets were needed for the period following 2020.

“The Commission is finalising its Energy Roadmap 2050 later this year, and that would be the perfect opportunity for them to give a clear target for renewables beyond 2020,” said Wilkes.

He added: “In addition to post-2020 legislation, investment is urgently needed in electricity infrastructure in order to transport large amounts of wind energy from where it is produced to where it is consumed and to create a single electricity market in the EU.”

Positions

Background

The EU has set itself a legally binding goal for 2020 of reducing its CO2 emissions by 20% and increasing the share of renewables in the energy mix by the same amount, both measured against 1990 levels.

A target of a 20% increase in energy efficiency has also been set but it is not legally enforceable. The low carbon roadmap in March this year stated that if it were met, emissions cuts would automatically rise to 25%, five percentage points above the target.

In October 2009, EU leaders endorsed a long-term target of reducing collective developed country emissions by 80-95% by 2050 compared to 1990 levels. This is in line with the recommendations of the UN's scientific arm - the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) - for preventing catastrophic changes to the Earth's climate.

Timeline

  • Autumn 2011: European Commission releases its Energy Roadmap for 2050.

Further Reading