Wind power key to pollution reduction, says Friends of the Earth

EUROPE: Promoting wind power, and making it more acceptable to local populations could allow Europe to build enough turbines to cut its 1990 emissions levels by 40% by 2020, according to a report by Friends of the Earth Europe (FOE) and the Stockholm Environment Institute (SEI).

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The report, Europe's Share of the Climate Challenge: Domestic Actions and International Obligations to Protect the Planet, claims that Europe can use feasible and affordable measures to cut domestic emissions 40% by 2020 and 90% by 2050, compared to 1990 levels, without resorting to dangerous or unproven solutions.

This means the target would be reached without using offsets, nuclear power, carbon capture and storage (CCS) or biofuels. Instead FOE/SEI call for a significant shift away from fossil fuels in favour of renewables - wind power would be scaled up from its current 3.3% share of generating capacity to 22% in 2020 and 55% in 2050 - and lifestyle changes. The report highlights, for example, the need to use the train instead of flying for journeys under 1000 km, to reduce meat consumption, and to end the world's love affair with the car. To reach the target only 43% of all journeys would have to be made by car in 2050 compared to 75% in 2005.

Charles Heaps, the lead author of the report and a senior scientist in SEI's climate and energy programme, estimates that to slash European emissions by 40% would cost no more than EUR2 per person per day. While the financial costs of this transition may be relatively low, the report admits that other issues may cause greater opposition - not least the significant impact that such an increase in renewables would cause on the landscape.

Offshore solution

The authors believe, however, that the aesthetic impact of these technologies can largely be minimised if Europe invests significantly in offshore wind and wave power. It urges careful planning to reduce some of the adverse responses to onshore wind - suggesting, for instance, that onshore wind turbines be excluded from national parks and sited with consideration for aesthetics. "More localised ownership of renewable facilities, for example, having turbines owned by the farmers on whose land they rest, will also help to increase local acceptance," states the report.

The report says that the key to meeting this target is not to allow electricity demands to grow too quickly, especially during the first two decades of the scenario when fossil and nuclear power plants are being rapidly phased out. It cites the years 2020-30 as the period when wind power will have to be built at the fastest rate of 25 GW a year in Europe.

"While this is an extremely rapid and completely unprecedented rate of addition, it is perhaps plausible under an assumption of an emergency global climate mobilisation," says the report. It assumes that future wind turbines will generate around 5 MW, therefore estimating that 5000 turbines will need to be built yearly during this period. Given its abundant potential for wind generation, the UK will add the highest rate of wind power, says the report, forecasting peak rates of additional wind power of 5 GW a year in the UK, with total wind capacity reaching 44 GW in 2020 and 92 GW in 2030.

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