Long-Term Policy Uncertainty Clouds Otherwise Clear Sailing For European Wind

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The growth of the wind energy industry in Europe is expected to continue over the next five years, increasing by around 17 gigawatts (GW) per year through to 2022, but WindEurope believes “policy uncertainty and a lack of ambition” may halt this impressive growth in the long term.

WindEurope, the wind energy trade body for Europe, published its latest Wind Energy Outlook in Europe report this week highlighting the next for the region’s wind energy industry. The report predicts that wind energy capacity across Europe will grow at an average of 17 GW a year through to 2022 and that the industry is expected to set a new record for capacity installations in 2019.

Over the report’s five-year forecast period it is expected Europe will install a total of 87 GW worth of new wind capacity pushing the region’s cumulative capacity up to 258 GW. Onshore wind will account for the vast majority of new capacity installations with 70.4 GW, with the remaining 16.5 GW set to be built by the offshore wind sector.

However, while near-term growth is looking solid, long-term growth is shrouded in mystery.

“Wind energy is on track for solid further expansion in Europe over the next five years,” explained WindEurope CEO Giles Dickson.

“But this growth comes mostly from yesterday’s decisions. The outlook for new investment decisions over the next five years is less clear. Most Governments still haven’t clarified their plans for new wind farms up to 2030. And partly because of this it’s getting harder to secure permits for new wind farms.

“And there are some specific problems in different countries that need sorting out. Germany messed up its first onshore wind auctions last year so will be building much less wind in the next year or two, leading to job losses. And France has a short-term problem around who can award permits, so there’ll be a dip in growth there too.”

Despite its difficulties, WindEurope still expects Germany to remain Europe’s biggest wind energy producer with 73 GW in 2022, followed by Spain with 30 GW, and the UK with 26 GW. However, Germany’s dominance will rely on its past efforts and its share of new installations will fall from 40% on average over the last five years to only 24%. Meanwhile, Spain and Sweden will both see strong growth in 2019, as should the Benelux region (Belgium, the Netherlands, and Luxembourg), Norway, Turkey, and France — the latter experiencing a short-term dip.

“The National Energy and Climate Plans for 2030 will be crucial,” Giles Dickson continued, speaking to the necessary policy mechanisms which will support the industry over the next decade. “They’ll define the volumes of new renewables countries want and how and when they propose to auction the new capacity.”

According to Andrew Canning from WindEurope, countries are required to submit the drafts of their national plans by the end of the year, which should hopefully provide a clearer picture of the future direction by early next year. All together, however, WindEurope remain “optimistic but cautious,” explained Canning. “That’s why we’re stressing the importance of the national plans so much. They’ll really be a road book of what countries will do in terms of renewables – including wind – all the way up to 2030.”

“The NCAPs also require governments to articulate their plans for existing renewables that come to the end of their life between now and 2030,” Dickson added. “This is getting urgent. Between now and 2022, 22 GW of wind installed will be more than 20 years old. Some of these wind farms will be repowered with modern turbines. But as things stand it looks like between 4.3 and 6.4 GW will be decommissioned altogether.”

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Joshua S Hill

I'm a Christian, a nerd, a geek, and I believe that we're pretty quickly directing planet-Earth into hell in a handbasket! I also write for Fantasy Book Review (.co.uk), and can be found writing articles for a variety of other sites. Check me out at about.me for more.

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