Wind farm: Wind energy needs more EU funding

In fact, in a Communication on renewable energy published today, the Commission says that a strong growth in renewables “could generate over 3 million jobs” and “would result in a net GDP growth by 0.36-0.4% by 2030”.

Why then, is wind energy so chronically underfunded by the EU budget? That was one question posed by a panellist at last night’s debate – ‘energy and the EU budget 2014-2020 – funding green growth in times of austerity,’ held at the Press Club Brussels Europe.

“Since 2007, the EU wind power industry contribution to GDP increased by 33%, wind exports rose by 33% and wind energy jobs increased by 30%, we are a recession-busting industry,” Stéphane Bourgeois, Head of Regulatory Affairs at EWEA, said at the debate organised by EWEA.

As a new industry that has proven its ability to create growth, it should be prioritised for R&D funding under the EU’s 2014 to 2020 budget, to boost its competitiveness with more established technologies. More funding could be channelled to wind energy R&D via Horizon 2020, and around two-thirds of the €9.1 billion budget for energy networks should be allocated to electricity.

Tudor Constantinescu, from the Directorate-General for Energy at the European Commission confirmed that “renewables will continue to be at the centre stage of [the Commission’s] energy policy.” But Constantinescu warned that “we have to build the infrastructure to accommodate higher shares of renewable energy,” and that “we must invest in R&D to promote renewable energy and make them more cost effective.”

Bendt Bendtsen MEP, member of the European Parliament’s budget committee, said: “Europe is facing big challenges on energy policy. We are becoming increasingly dependent on oil from the Middle East and Russian gas. Europe needs to become less dependent in the future for security of supply, foreign policy and competitiveness.”

On the fact that Europe spends over €300 billion on fossil fuel subsidies every year, Bendtsen said: “we need to use that money much better.” Sebastien Godinot, an economist at WWF Europe, echoed Bendtsen’s call and highlighted a recent IEA report finding that €500 billion is exported for fossil fuels every year. “This money is wasted outside of Europe,” he said adding that it could be better spent on a new energy paradigm in Europe.

When it comes to job creation, speakers noted that wind energy is more labour intensive than fossil fuels and therefore creates more jobs. “€1 billion invested in coal means 700 jobs. €1 billion invested in renewables means 7,000 jobs,” Godinot said.

Bourgeois said that wind energy puts 5% of its revenue back in to R&D, a higher proportion than most industries. “This drives innovation and this is where we can compete with China,” he said.

At last night’s lively and well-attended debate in Brussels the rounding conclusion was that renewables need more money if they are to compete on a level-playing field with fossil fuels and nuclear – both of which have received the lion’s share of EU energy funding for decades. In fact, the European Environment Agency says that 80% of EU energy subsidies go to fossil fuels and nuclear.

Zoë Casey,