The European wind energy industry contributed €36 billion to the European Union’s GDP in 2016, supported 263,000 jobs, and generated €8 billion worth of exports outside of Europe, according to new findings from European wind energy industry group WindEurope.
WindEurope published a new report entitled Local Impact, Global Leadership this week, reporting on the significant impact that the European wind energy industry is having, not just in terms of its clean energy contributions, but its economic success. However, it is similarly important to realize that the explosion of wind energy around the world has not necessarily translated to increased success for Europe’s experienced wind energy industry, and since 2011 the share of EU content in global installed capacity has actually fallen by 30%.
Nevertheless, the European wind energy industry contributed a total of €36.1 billion to the European Union’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) in 2016, or 0.26% of the overall EU GDP.
Further, the industry exported €7.8 billion and imported €5.4 billion worth of products and services, and created jobs in turbine manufacturing, electricity production, as well as in many other connected industries and economic sectors. According to the report, the wind energy industry accounted for a total of 262,712 direct and indirect jobs in the European Union in 2016.
“Wind is a smart choice for the economy. It’s a European industrial success story,” said Giles Dickson, WindEurope CEO.
“But it’s at risk. Clear and ambitious targets and policies are essential to sustain the jobs and growth our industry supports. We need an EU renewables target of at least 35% by 2030. We need clarity on post-2020 volumes so the supply chain knows what to invest and where. We need R&D and industrial policies that help Europe maintain its technology lead and continue to export.
“If all this happens, wind could meet 30% of Europe’s power needs in 2030 and we’d generate more jobs and growth for the economy. But if it doesn’t, Europe will miss out on €92bn of investments and 132,000 jobs: that’s the cost of non-ambition. What’s more, ambition costs less than the alternatives: onshore wind is the cheapest form of new power in most EU countries; offshore wind isn’t far behind, with costs falling over 60% in three years.”
Unfortunately, and as mentioned, the current successes will not inherently translate into future success without significant ambition from EU governments. Job growth has flat-lined in the last few years while half the EU Member States have failed to invest anything into wind over the last year, and net exports are falling in the face of significant competition from other markets.
The EU wind energy industry’s contribution to the regional GDP could double if the level of ambition evident in the industry is matched by EU Member State governments.
“The challenges of climate change, energy security and Europe’s industrial stability are more intense than ever before,” said Markus Tacke, CEO, Siemens Gamesa Renewable Energy.
“Wind power is an important part of the solution as it has already soundly proven — locally and globally. Our new offshore manufacturing facilities in Hull (UK) and Cuxhaven (Germany) are a good example for bringing employment back to coastal regions and contributing to re-industralisation. To continuously offer wind power at the lowest possible cost of energy, our industry needs a long-term vision, a stable framework and sufficient volumes.”
“The wind industry is key to lowering greenhouse gas emissions and has dramatically lowered the cost of wind energy, creating jobs and investments and contributing directly and indirectly to a huge range of industries in Europe,” added Anders Runevad, Group President & CEO, Vestas.
“Wind energy is cheaper than many fossil fuels and it’s time for the EU to review its 2030 renewable energy target and raise it to at least 35 per cent. On top of that, we need to continue working on adapting markets, policies and public infrastructure to reflect a future energy system with more renewables. By doing so, the sector will continue to grow, create jobs and investments, and a more sustainable energy mix.”