Europe: Warning against loss of momentum - Call for clarity over funding

The European Commission must be clearer on its plans to boost funding for the development of low-carbon energy technology if it is to meet the targets set out in its Strategic Energy Technology Plan (SET-Plan) launched last month, says the European wind industry.

The commission is asking the public and private sectors to raise around EUR50 billion in the next ten years as part of the plan, with around EUR6 billion of that allocated to wind power (Windpower Monthly, November 2009).

Welcoming the initiative, Nicolas Fichaux, head of policy analysis at the European Wind Energy Association (EWEA), says the wind industry is "ready and keen" to launch the wind energy road map, which is due to be released after the EU summit in spring 2010. But, he warns: "Failing to identify funding for the plans contained in the road map as soon as possible could create a loss of momentum. The industry cannot wait any longer; time is of the essence."

Fichaux was speaking after a high-level conference in Stockholm to discuss the SET-Plan. The conference was organised by the Swedish Energy Agency in collaboration with the European Commission, and was attended by representatives from the Swedish EU presidency, the commission and the renewable energy industry.

Concrete plan

Delegates to the conference concluded that the EC's wind energy road map, which outlines research and development goals for the coming decade, provides "a concrete and transparent plan, which will give confidence to the sector by showing where future research and development efforts will lead the industry".

The road map foresees the building of extensive testing facilities for turbines and development of next-generation turbines that could have a capacity of 10-20 megawatts.

Delegates noted that the road map shifts the focus from the coordination of individual projects to the coordination of whole programmes, in order to maximise their effectiveness. This represents a very good starting point for boosting the development of wind energy and contributing to the achievement of EU's 20% target for renewable energy production by 2020, the delegates said.

Quick start

It is necessary to launch the wind initiative as early a possible, delegates agreed. They proposed that an advisory group be set up to preserve the whole-programme approach and coordination of sourcing finance. They also called for industry to be heavily involved in agreeing the priorities and timing of implementation, as well as drawing up yearly proposals. Meanwhile, urgent action is required to modernise the grid network across Europe to avoid grid issues becoming a showstopper, they said.

Greater emphasis also needs to be placed on education and training if the SET-Plan is to be a success, the conference concluded. A clear structure is needed to co-ordinate the work being carried out by different institutions, namely universities, the European Energy Research Alliance (EERA) - a network of 10 European research institutes - and the European Institute of Technology (EIT).

The forum of the European Wind Energy Technology Platform (known as TPWind) noted that the EIT is creating knowledge and innovation communities (KICs), so-called webs of excellence to promote education and innovation in key areas by integrating the innovation chain.

One of the KICs will focus on sustainable energy and climate-change adaptation and mitigation. According to TPWind: "It will have an entrepreneurial outlook, foster new talent and fully exploit new innovation opportunities. With a yearly budget of EUR50-100 million, it will therefore have a great impact on the implementation of the wind energy road map."

However, the forum said it was as yet not clear how coordination between the wind energy road map, the grid road map, the EERA, the EIT, and other stakeholders like TPWind and European Academy of Wind Energy, will be ensured and how it will contribute to the effective development of wind power.

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