Wind industry disputes EC post-2020 forecast

EUROPE: The European Commission (EC) has published figures that show continuous strong growth in wind power until 2020, but a significant slowdown after that. The wind industry, however, sees no reason to forecast a slump in the sector.

According to the commission document, EU energy trends to 2030, 333GW of new electricity-generating capacity will be installed in the EU from 2011 to 2020. It expects 64% of new capacity to be renewable energy, 17% gas, 12% coal, 4% nuclear and 3% oil, and insists that wind will lead this increase, accounting for 136GW, or 41%, of all new installations.

This would mean that wind energy will produce 14% of EU electricity by 2020. Currently, 80GW of wind energy capacity is installed in the EU, producing 5% of its electricity. Christian Kjaer, chief executive of the European Wind Energy Association (EWEA), says that the sizeable role given to wind in the commission's scenario is in line with current market reality, EU legislation and industry expectations.

These figures represent a significant increase in wind energy capacity by 2020 since the publication in 2008 of the EU executive's previous scenario. The new prediction of 222GW - increased from 120GW - closely resembles EWEA's 2020 target of 230GW.

Declining growth forecast

For 2030, the commission has almost doubled its expectations for wind energy to 280GW, compared with 146GW in its 2008 scenario. However, this means that it only expects wind to grow by 58GW between 2020 and 2030, a relatively low figure compared with the ambitious numbers suggested for 2020.

This is because it assumes there will be a decrease in wind investments from 2020, resulting in a slowdown of installation from an annual average of 13.6GW up to 2020, to the lower average of 5.8GW after that. Once EU member states have met targets to produce 20% of their electricity from renewables by 2020, capacity expansion will slow down, it suggests.

EWEA, however, dismisses this negative picture and says it continues to expect 400GW of wind power by 2030.

"I find it unrealistic that, after 20 years, there would suddenly be a dramatic decline in wind power investments, especially given the new scenario's high expectations for offshore wind energy up to 2020," says Kjaer.

The document forecasts that offshore will generate 14TWh in 2010, rising to 81TWh in 2015 and 177TWh in 2020, with the rate of increase then slowing to 224TWh in 2025 and 287TWh in 2030.

While renewables are the clear winners under the EC's recently published scenario, the commission proved at the end of September that it still has a soft spot for fossil fuels by approving Spanish subsidies for electricity producers using domestic coal until the end of 2014. Green groups have suggested that the decision to approve these subsidies has made a mockery of the EC's stated climate and energy objectives described above.

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