Recovery packages should link to green deal, says WindEurope

Coronavirus stimulus and recovery packages should be aligned with helping Europe's transition to clean energy, according to policy experts. But setting the EU on a path to carbon neutrality by mid-century will require the right policies in place to stimulate growth as well as funding.

Pierre Tardieu… Call to invest in green projects
Pierre Tardieu… Call to invest in green projects

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A majority (17) of the 27 member states now support aligning the bloc’s post-coronavirus recovery with the European green deal — a broad plan to halve greenhouse gas emissions by 2030, before reaching carbon neutrality by 2050 — according to industry body WindEurope.

The deal would involve an acceleration of clean-energy deployment, mainly wind and solar PV, and would be funded by a €1 trillion package of public and private spending.

"When we design stimulus packages to jumpstart the economy, we could use the green deal as a guide to pick projects to invest in and reinvigorate the economy," WindEurope’s chief policy officer Pierre Tardieu told Windpower Monthly. "We should invest in renewables, in electricity grids, in infrastructure for renewable hydrogen, in EV charging stations, and in the port infrastructure required to deploy massive amounts of offshore wind."

Projects that significantly impact energy markets in more than one member state — known as projects of common interest (PCIs) — should be aligned with the green deal, Tardieu said. "These projects have fast-tracked permitting and attract financing more easily," he added. "If PCIs are fossil-fuel projects, we are openly contradicting the European green deal."

Aligning post-virus recovery efforts with green principles has also received support from the International Renewable Energy Agency (Irena) and government ministers taking part in a roundtable discussion, chaired by International Energy Agency (IEA) director Fatih Birol and Danish climate and energy minister Dan Jørgensen.

Pre-crisis problems

As Tardieu points out, current industrial slowdowns aside, many of the obstacles facing Europe’s wind sector predate the coronavirus outbreak, such as permitting delays, slow electrification of hard-to-abate sectors and issues with auction regimes across the EU, he said.

Increasing the rate of electrification in sectors such as heating and transport would allow renewables’ penetration to increase, but the process has been slow. "We know how to decarbonise electricity," Tardieu explained. "But if we are to increase the share of renewable energy — wind and solar, in particular — we need to electrify uses that rely on fossil fuels, which means we need to invest in the right infrastructure."

Europe’s supply chain also needs to be ready to deliver increased volumes of wind energy. "We need to give visibility to the supply chain," Tardieu said. "That means a clear timeline for wind-energy auctions: when they are going to be and what the volumes will be."

These tenders should be technology-specific and not pit different clean-energy sources against each other, as was the case in several auctions held last year. "If you want to manage the energy transition well, you want the best of each technology," Tardieu argued. "Then you know you will have this much wind, and this much solar."

Some of these challenges will require extra funding, with the Covid-19 recovery efforts presenting an opportunity to divert financing to green technologies and projects. But they will all need the right policies in place to allow the wind sector to build the capacity needed to reduce emissions, Tardieu concluded.

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