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WindEurope: Wind is not growing fast enough for EU economy to go climate-neutral

25 February 2021

Bogdan Tudorache

Europe installed 14.7 GW of new wind energy in 2020, reveals the latest WindEurope study, consulted by About 80% of these new projects were in onshore wind, and Europe now has 220 GW of total wind energy capacity.

”But Europe is not building enough new wind to deliver the Green Deal and climate neutrality: the EU is set to build 15 GW per year over the next 5 years – it needs 27 GW per year to deliver the 55% emissions reductions by 2030,” say WindEurope officials, explaining that permitting remains the main problem.
If Europe built 14.7 GW of new wind farms in 2020, this was 19% less than what was expected before COVID. 80% of the new capacity was onshore wind. The Netherlands built the most (2 GW, mostly offshore) followed by Germany, Norway, Spain and France. The EU27 accounted for 10.5 GW of the new capacity.

Wind represented 16% of all the electricity consumed in Europe in 2020. It was 27% in Germany and the UK, 22% in Spain – and 48% in Denmark.

“Wind is now 16% of Europe’s electricity. But Europe is not building enough new wind farms to deliver the EU’s climate and energy goals. The main problem is permitting. Permitting rules and procedures are too complex. There are not enough people working in the permitting authorities to process permit applications. Governments have to address this. Otherwise the Green Deal is at risk,” says Giles Dickson, WindEurope CEO.

Looking ahead, WindEurope expects Europe to build 105 GW new wind farms over the next 5 years, over 70% of which will be onshore. But this is well below the pace needed to deliver the Green Deal and climate neutrality. The EU27 are set to build only 15 GW per year of new wind over 2021-25, whereas they need to build 18 GW per year over 2021-30 to deliver the existing 2030 EU renewables target and 27 GW per year to deliver the higher target that’s now coming with the 55% climate target.

Meanwhile, the number of older wind turbines reaching the end of their operational life is increasing. In 2020 Europe decommissioned 388 MW of wind energy. Many decommissioned wind farms are being repowered but not enough of them. Obstacles to repowering resulted in Austria ending 2020 with less wind capacity than it had at the start of the year. In the next five years 38 GW of wind farms will reach 20 years of operation and require a decision on their future: repowering, life-time extension or full decommissioning.

Germany which has long been the engine of the wind energy in Europe only installed 1.65 GW of wind farms last year, its lowest in a decade. Many of its wind auctions were undersubscribed. Permitting has been the main problem, but the number of new wind farm permits actually increased last year. This suggests a recovery is ahead, but Germany remains far off from what it needs to install to meet its renewables targets. More encouragingly, Poland built a significant amount of new onshore wind and has committed now to a major build-out of offshore wind. France saw further steady expansion of onshore wind and will start installing its first commercial offshore wind farms in the coming years.

Autor: Energynomics

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