The European Union’s installed wind power capacity has reached a milestone — the 100 gigawatt (GW) mark. That’s the equivalent of the electricity generated by 39 nuclear power plants, or “a train of coal stretching from Buenos Aires to Brussels.” There are financial risks that are threatening this growth though, according to industry body EWEA.
“We have just in the past couple of weeks passed 100 gigawatts of total installed capacity in Europe,” Christian Kjaer, CEO of the European Wind Energy Association is quoted as saying.
“We have been adding about 10 gigawatts per year for a couple of years and it will be around the same this year,” he added. “Whether that will continue in 2013, I can’t say. There’s too much political uncertainty.”
The wind power industry is very capital-intensive, so after banks recently “shortened the maturity of loans and increased costs for lenders,” it’s now facing challenges, Kjaer said, according to a Reuters news report.
In order to counter this, wind power companies are now looking for additional funding through “long-term investors, including pension funds and insurers to make up the shortfall.”
And happening at the same time, the recent economic crisis in the European Union has been leading to significant changes in government policies to do with the funding of renewable energy.
Recent growth in wind power in the EU this year includes 400 megawatts (MW) developed by DONG Energy off the coast of Denmark, and 48 MW developed by EDF Energies Nouvelles Polska in Poland, EWEA said.
So far, the majority for installed wind power has been onshore wind, but the rapidly emerging large-scale offshore wind sector can potentially double the current 100 gigawatts very fast,… once it solves its financing and grid issues.
Currently, the industry cost estimates for installing offshore are at least 2 times higher than onshore, “3-4 million euros per megawatt, compared with around 1.2-1.4 million euros for onshore.”
In order to stimulate future investment, EWEA is pushing the European Commission and its member states to “agree on a policy beyond the existing target of a 20 percent share of energy from renewable sources by 2020. It also wants to ensure major investment in the European grid, as part of a single energy market, in which supplies can easily cross national borders.”
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