Renewables slowed emissions growth ? EEA

Much has been made of the European Environment Agency (EEA)’s recent report that greenhouse gas emissions increased in 2010. But what is equally as interesting is the key role that renewables including wind power played in containing further emissions growth.

The EEA reported last week that EU greenhouse gas increased by 2.4 % in 2010 as a result of economic recovery in many countries after the 2009 recession and a colder winter. “This rebound effect was expected as most of Europe came out of recession,” said EEA executive director Jacqueline McGlade. “However, the increase could have been even higher without the fast expansion of renewable energy generation in the EU,” she insisted.

Indeed, the EU energy balance for 2010 “shows a very strong relative increase in renewable energy, particularly of wind energy, solar energy and hydro for electricity generation,” says the report, noting a 12.7% increase of total consumption of energy from renewable sources across the EU. This trend was equally valid at a national level in most member states, according to the report.

This is good news for the wind turbines industry and if the EEA’s forecast for growth in the renewables sector for the next 10 years is correct, by 2020 energy generation from wind farm, solar energy and other technologies will be adding a much more significant contribution to slashing greenhouse gas emission and fighting climate change. In a report published last November, the agency predicted that offshore wind energy capacity in Europe will increase 17-fold between 2010 and 2020, and that onshore wind farm installed capacity will double over the same period.

Let’s hope therefore that European ministers understand the importance of pushing growth in the renewables sector by supporting a legally binding renewable energy target for 2030, as advocated by European Wind Energy Association.

As Jacqueline McGlade said in November, “with a concerted effort we can and should go even further to phase in renewable energy sources. Burning fossil fuels threaten the stability of our climate, and our most recent analysis has shown that pollution from coal and gas power plants is costing Europe many billions of euros a year in health costs”.

By Philippa Jones,