Europe wants to be climate neutral by 2050. And onshore wind power will play a central role in that. According to the European Commission‘s decarbonisation scenarios it will be a quarter of Europe’s electricity consumption by 2050. That requires a 4-fold increase in the volume of onshore wind capacity between now and then. The European wind industry today presents 8 policy recommendations for Governments on how to deliver that.
The key recommendation is to overhaul the slow and complex permitting procedures. This is the main bottleneck for new wind farms. It often takes 3 years or more for authorities to decide on a permit. These delays add to the costs of developing a wind farm, deter investors and stifle technology innovation.
The new EU Renewables Directive imposed a 2-year deadline and one-stop shops for permit decisions. But few Member States are delivering on this yet. And only 6 out of 27 said anything specific about the simplification of permitting in their 2030 National Energy and Climate Plans. Aside from these procedural issues, Governments also need to beef up the staffing of permitting authorities, at national and local level.
European countries also need to fast-track the repowering of older wind farms. Modern turbines are 6-10 times more powerful than the early ones. When you repower an old wind farm you generally treble its output with one third fewer turbines. Nearly all of today’s onshore wind will need to be repowered by 2050. But only four EU countries have strategies for this.
Additionally the EU needs a long-term investment strategy for onshore wind. This should cover state aid and trade policy – and industrial and innovation policy. Europe has an extensive manufacturing base for onshore wind. But we cannot take its competitiveness for granted. Horizon Europe needs to support continued R&D in new materials and components design, including to improve the recyclability of wind turbines.
Today onshore wind provides over 220,000 jobs in Europe today and contributes €30bn to EU GDP. The jobs are disproportionately in rural, remote or economically disadvantaged areas. Each new onshore wind turbine generates on average €7m of economic activity. The further expansion of onshore wind will contribute to post-COVID recovery.
Onshore wind will remain the leading source of renewable energy in Europe in terms of installed capacity. The Commission’s 2050 scenarios see it growing from 174 GW today to 750 GW in 2050. This requires Europe to build 23 GW of new onshore wind a year. Europe built only 12 GW in 2019.
In their National Energy & Climate Plans EU Governments have collectively committed to expand onshore wind to 268 GW by 2030. But this is a tall order with their current policies and measures, especially on the permitting of new onshore wind farms.
“In order to make the European Green Deal a success, we will need to build more than 700 GW of onshore wind within the next 30 years. This is an exciting challenge for the entire industry that will drive innovation and create jobs, benefiting the environment, consumers and local communities”, says Nicolas Couderc, WindEurope Interim Chairman and CEO France at EDF Renewables
“Onshore wind makes economic sense. It’s the cheapest from of new power generation in most of Europe. It benefits local communities. It supports jobs and growth. Over 220,000 people across Europe work in onshore wind. And every new turbine generates €7m of economic activity. Onshore wind is a major EU export industry too. But to keep thriving, it needs profound policy changes in the next few years. Permitting has got to get simpler and quicker. We need to step up the repowering of older wind farms. And Europe needs to keep investing in grids”, says WindEurope CEO Giles Dickson.