Wind power in European Union

Industry statistics compiled by the European Wind Energy Association (EWEA) show that cumulative EU wind turbines capacity increased by 15% to reach a level of 74,767 MW, up from 64,719 MW at the end of 2008.

In the EU, wind power is by far the most popular electricity generating technology. For the second year running wind energy had the largest market share: of almost 26 GW installed in the EU in 2009, wind power accounted for 39%.

All renewable technologies combined accounted for 61% of new power generating capacity. Since 2000, installed wind capacity has increased from 9.7 GW to 75 GW.

By the end of the year, a total of more than 190,000 people were employed in the wind energy sector, and investments in wind farms amounted to about €13 billion in the EU during 2009.

The wind power capacity installed by the end of 2009 will, in a normal wind year, produce 162.5 TWh of electricity, equal to 4.8% of the EU’s electricity demand.

Spain and Germany remain the two largest annual markets for wind power, competing each year for the top spot (2,459 MW and 1,917 MW respectively in 2009), followed by Italy (1,114 MW), France (1,088 MW), and the UK (1,077 MW).

Eleven EU Member States – over one third of all EU countries – now each have more than 1,000 MW of installed wind energy capacity. Austria and Greece are just below the 1,000 MW mark.

Offshore wind farm is setting itself up to become a mainstream energy source in its own right. In 2009, 582 MW of offshore wind were installed in the EU, up 56% on the previous year.

Cumulative capacity increased to 2,063 MW. The main markets were the United Kingdom and Denmark.For 2010, it is expected that a further 1,000 MW of offshore wind will be installed in Europe.

This would represent around 10% of the 2010 market. Support framework for wind energyFor the past decade, the EU and certain Member States have shown strong support for renewable deployment.

This has played a large part in wind power’s spectacular growth over the past ten years. Since 2001, EU Directive 77/2001/EC, which promotes electricity from renewable sources and attributes Member States indicative targets for 21% of EU electricity to come from renewable energy sources by 2010, has given an important boost to the sector.In December 2008, agreement was reached on a Renewable Energy Directive (2009/28/EC) which set an EU renewable energy target of at least 20% of final energy consumption by 2020. 

Each EU member state was set a national legally binding target for the share of renewable energy. In terms of electricity consumption, renewables should provide about 34% of the EU’s power by 2020 to meet the binding EU target, with wind set to contribute 14-17%.

The directive legally obliges each EU Member State to outline the steps it will take to meet its target in a National Renewable Energy Action Plan (NREAP) to be submitted by 30 June 2010 to the European Commission.

NREAPs will set out how each EU country is to meet its overall national target, including elements such as sectoral targets for shares of renewable energy for transport, electricity and heating/cooling and tackling administrative and grid barriers.

Every two years Member States will submit a progress report to the European Commission, containing information on their share of renewable energy, support schemes and progress on tackling administrative and grid barriers. Based on these reports from the Member States, the European Commission will publish its own report the following year.

Certain measures to promote flexibility have been built into the Directive in order to help countries achieve their targets in a cost-effective way, without undermining market stability. For example, Member States may agree on the statistical transfer of a specified amount of renewable energy between themselves.

They can also cooperate on any type of joint project relating to the production of renewable energy, involving private operators if they like. Thirdly, two or more Member States may decide, on a voluntary basis, to join or partly coordinate their national support schemes in order to help achieve their targets. Under certain conditions, Member States will be able to help meet their national electricity sector target with imports from non-EU countries.

The Directive requires EU countries to take “the appropriate steps to develop transmission and distribution grid infrastructure, intelligent networks, storage facilities and the electricity system” to help develop renewable electricity. They must also speed up authorisation procedures for grid infrastructure.

EU countries must ensure that transmission system operators and distribution system operators guarantee the transmission and distribution of renewable electricity and provide for either priority access or guaranteed access to the grid system.

Future prospects and scenariosEWEA has developed two 2020 scenarios for each EU national market: a “baseline” scenario and a “high” scenario1). The “baseline” scenario is based on EWEA’s traditionally conservative approach to setting future targets for wind energy.

It assumes a total installed capacity of wind energy in the EU by 2020 of 230 GW, producing 580 TWh of electricity, and wind energy’s share of total electricity demand would increase from 4.1% in 2008 to 14.2% in 2020.

The “high” scenario acknowledges that wind power – as the most affordable of the “new” renewable electricity technologies – is likely to meet a much higher share of the EU’s Renewable Energy Directive 2020 target than the 12% of electricity demand indicated by the European Commission.

For many of the countries, the “high” scenario also takes into account wind power targets already announced by national governments. In the “high” scenario, total installed wind power capacity will reach 265 GW by 2020, producing 681 TWh of electricity, and wind energy’s share of total electricity demand would increase from 4.1% in 2008 to 16.7% in 2020.

Offshore wind energy, although still in its infancy, is starting to have an increasing impact on Europe’s wind power development, and it is expected to reach 40 GW or more of installed capacity by 2020 (EWEA target).The wind resources in Europe’s waters make it a prime location for offshore wind development, and offshore wind power will be key to Europe’s energy future. In June 2009, a report by the European Environment Agency (EEA) report found that in 2030, the technical potential of offshore wind power would be 30,000 TWh), seven times greater than the projected electricity demand.