Wind sector keeps up pressure on EU over targets

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This article is part of our special report Wind Energy.

The president of the European Wind Energy Association (EWEA), Arthuros Zervos, has called for the EU to adopt a binding renewable energy target of 30% for 2030.

"The wind industry expects to invest some EUR 400 billion in Europe between now and 2030," he warned. "To do so it needs stable and certain EU energy policy."   

According to Christian Kjaer, EWEA's CEO, the continent's wind power sector is "increasingly concerned" about the lack of planning for the post-2020 period.

"It's important that we in the power sector acknowledge that we have a policy vacuum in terms of what's going to happen on 1 January 2021," he writes in a commentary published by EURACTIV today (14 March).

"For infrastructure investments, that is problematic," he adds.

Wind energy installations can take up to ten years to build, and investors need to be satisfied that they will be able to sell the energy that is then generated.

"I think that my industry is getting increasingly concerned about installing and planning new projects the closer we get to 2020," Kjaer explains, "so we're suggesting that the [European] Commission starts looking at policies for the period after 2020 now".

By 2020, the EU is committed to reducing greenhouse gas emissions by at least 20%, increasing the share of renewable energies in its energy mix by 20% and upping energy efficiency by 20%, all on 1990 levels.

But divisions between member states prevented the emissions reductions targets for 2030 and 2040 laid out in the 2050 Low Carbon Roadmap published last week – 40% and 60% respectively – from being made legally binding.

While lauding the positive elements of the roadmap, Steve Sawyer, secretary-general of the Global Wind Energy Council, agreed that there was a danger of a post-2020 policy vacuum for EU investors and electricity producers alike.

"The current legislation only goes as far as 2020 and while looking 10 years into the future is better than anyone else is doing, it's still not enough," he told EURACTIV.

"You need to look 20, 30, 40 years ahead to put in place the policies to get us where we need to be in terms of emissions, energy security and competitiveness."

The 2050 roadmap does forecast a rise in the share of low-carbon technologies in the electricity mix "from around 45% today to around 60% in 2020, including through meeting the renewable energy target, to 75 to 80% in 2030, and nearly 100% in 2050".

But radical as this sounds, the goals are not obligatory and there are no specific targets for renewables.

"It is clear that at the recent energy summit and in energy ministers meetings afterwards, nuclear and gas and coal were labelled as low-carbon technologies," Kjaer writes.

"There is a push or an intention to classify every existing power generating technology as low carbon – including coal, by including CCS (carbon capture and storage)."

To counter this, he proposed a "technology-neutral emissions performance standard" to start in 2015, which would be set slightly above a new gas plant – at about 350 grams per kilowatt hour – and reduced over time.  

"And then let the market decide who can deliver carbon-free electricity the cheapest," he said.

In a message to the EWEA 2011 conference, Herman van Rompuy, president of the European Council, said: "An important step will be to consider what happens after the current successful policies run out in 2020."

Jerzy Buzek, president of the European Parliament, said: "EU energy policy needs long-term decisions, not just to achieve our 2020 commitments, but also to create certainty for industry on the road to a low-carbon economy and to 80% cuts in greenhouse gas emissions by 2050."

The EU agreed a new Renewable Energies Directive in December 2008, which turned into law its binding target to source 20% of the bloc's energy from renewable sources by 2020.

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 was 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.

The European Renewable Energy Council (EREC) believes that at least 45% of the EU's total energy consumption could come from renewable sources by 2030. Wind energy alone could meet 28.5% of Europe's electricity demand by then, according to EWEA's calculations.

Already EU member states' National Renewable Energy Action Plans show wind energy providing over 14% of the bloc's electricity by 2020.

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