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EU Wind Energy Grew In 2012, Faces Challenges In 2013

The European Union added 11.6 gigawatts (GW) of wind energy capacity in 2012 according to annual statistics released by the European Wind Energy Association (EWEA), bringing the total EU wind energy capacity up to 105.6 GW.

However, the EWEA expects 2013 and 2014 to be challenging years for the wind energy sector.

European Union Adds More Wind Energy Capacity

Massif du Sud wind power plant
Image Source: EDF Energies Nouvelles

“The 2012 figures reflect orders made before the wave of political uncertainty that has swept across Europe since 2011 , which is having a hugely negative impact on the wind energy sector,” commented Christian Kjaer, CEO of EWEA. “We expect this instability to be far more apparent in 2013 and 2014 installation levels.”

The European Union installed 9.4 GW of wind energy capacity in 2011, lower than 2012s 11.6 GW. Wind energy represented 26% of all new European Union capacity installed during 2012, with investments between €12.8 billion and €17.2 billion.

The 105.6 GW wind energy capacity is currently meeting 7% of Europe’s electricity demand, up from 6.3% at the end of 2011.

Last year, wind energy installations were led by Germany (2.4 GW, 21% of all new wind power capacity), the UK (1.9 GW, 16%), Italy (1.3 GW, 11%), Romania (0.9 GW, 8%) and Poland (0.9 GW, 8%). In terms of total installed capacity, Germany is also the leader with 31.3 GW (30%), followed by Spain (22.8 GW, 22%), the UK (8.4 GW, 8%), Italy (8.1 GW, 8%) and France (7.2 GW, 7%). (Sourced from EWEA)

These statistics put the EU at almost 2 GW under its National Renewable Energy Action Plan forecasts, with eighteen member states falling behind, including Slovakia, Greece, Czech Republic, Hungary, France, and Portugal.

UK Reach Third Place

The UK were happy to have reached third place, overall, up from fifth in 2011. Maf Smith, RenewableUK deputy chief executive, said the figures reflected the growing importance of the British wind industry to the economy, but called for greater certainty over the future of financial support mechanisms for the industry.

“The government is calling for the UK to more than quadruple the amount of wind installed between now and 2020,” he said. “The industry can achieve 31GW onshore and offshore by the end of the decade, but only with clear cross-party political support.”

“We can attract billions of pounds worth of investment to the UK and create tens of thousands of jobs, but only if the signals from Westminster are right. The proof of this will be in the Energy Bill, which is due to become law by the end of the year. So the decisions taken by government over next few months are absolutely crucial for the UK’s wind industry.”

Troubled Waters Ahead

However, the UK is actually underperforming. The UK should have had 8.6 GW of new capacity installed by 2012, instead it only has 8.4. That certainly seems an insignificant difference, but it is representative of a greater problem.

The authors of the report were clear to show that the 2012 figures do not reflect the “significantly negative impact” of economic, regulatory, and political uncertainty that has existed in Europe since 2011.

Most of the capacity installed during 2012 was permitted and approved prior to the negative falloff, and projects going forward are up against the wall.

“The 2012 figures reflect orders made before the wave of political uncertainty that has swept across Europe since 2011, which is having a hugely negative impact on the wind energy sector,” said Christian Kjaer, chief executive of EWEA.

“We expect this instability to be far more apparent in 2013 and 2014 installation levels.”

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