EU prepares for 80 per cent increase in renewables capacity

The coming decade will experience a 17-fold increase in offshore wind energy capacity across Europe, while concentrated solar power and marine energy should deliver similar growth rates if EU member states fulfil their stated plans to install renewable technologies.

That is the conclusion of a new report from the European Environment Agency (EEA), although separate research on the dire economic environment faced by wind turbine manufacturers in particular may serve to cast some doubt on the agency’s predicted build rates.

The EEA analysed nations’ predicted growth in clean energy capacity as they look to meet their own renewable targets, as well as the impact of the EU’s collective goal of producing 20 per cent of energy from renewable sources by 2020.

Currently, annual average predicted growth rates stand at 11.7 per cent.

The EEA forecasts offshore wind capacity will increase 17-fold to more than 44.2GW, despite the fact that industry predictions come in at a more modest 10-fold increase.

It also predicts wave and tidal energy and concentrated solar power capacity will increase 11-fold over the coming decade.

According to the report, installed capacity of onshore wind and biomass-generated electricity are set to double over the same period, with solar photovoltaic capacity predicted to triple.

The EEA also expects renewable heat capacity to increase substantially: heat pump output is set to triple, while geothermal heat and solar thermal output will almost quadruple by 2020.

But even these exponential growth rates will ensure that the EU only just achieves its renewable energy targets, the EEA says.

It notes that around 43 per cent of all renewable energy production is planned for heating and cooling, with biomass accounting for 80 per cent of output. Transport will make up just 12 per cent, but is expected to be the fastest-growing element between 2005 and 2020.

Jacqueline McGlade, executive director of the EEA, said the report highlights the need for the EU to step up its renewable energy ambitions.