Electricity industry warms to wind

EUROPE: Europe's powerful electricity industry body, Eurelectric, is showing greater acceptance of renewables and acknowledging that wind power is an important part of Europe's energy future, wind industry sources said after Eurelectric released its renewable energy action plan (Resap) report last month.

Pan-European trading markets, a high carbon price and back-up capacity remain crucial elements for the success of renewables under Eurelectric's vision. But the organisation has moved away from a "tendency to force a pan-European market approach on renewables before the electricity market at large is fully functioning", according to Christian Kjaer, the chief executive of the European Wind Energy Association.

Broad cooperation

There is now wide agreement that the EU renewable-energy directive must stand as it is and that efforts on greater harmonisation of policies across the EU should go hand in hand with improving the infrastructure that will allow better connections between European countries, Kjaer added.

One of the report's recommendations is greater use of the EU renewables directive's co-operation mechanisms. Joint projects and other forms of co-operation were neglected in the National Renewable Energy Action Plans the European countries released last year to outline their intended action to 2020. Both Eurelectric and EWEA have urged the European Commission to encourage member states do more.

Sweden and Norway have already announced a joint trading system for renewable-energy certificates, starting in January. "These are the things we'd like to see," said Kjaer, although, unlike Eurelectric, EWEA is not openly in favour of the certificate model over other types of co-operation.

Wind's variability, and especially occasional over-capacity, is still a major concern for Eurelectric. Kjaer said that with the right infrastructure in place - adequate grid connections ahead of typically expensive storage - and effective demand management, wind power over-capacity is not a problem. Denmark and Spain have been managing their large wind-power generation capacity effectively, he added.

The Resap report further argues that the EU's Emissions Trading System, and wholesale trading more generally, should be the main drivers for renewable energy, rather than targets and subsidies. "We need some perspective on this," Kjaer said. "Power markets are still malfunctioning, and pushing renewables into that is not going to help anyone."

He added that cash-strapped European governments may want to withdraw subsidies from fossil fuels and redirect some towards less mature technologies, such as offshore wind, that need help to take off.

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