European Technology Platform for Wind Energy looks to map out the EU's energy future

ORGANISATION PROFILE: For the past three years the European Technology Platform for Wind Energy - more commonly known as TPWind - has focused its efforts on the research and development (R&D) needs of the wind industry. Now, with the introduction of the European Commission's Strategic Energy Technology Plan (SET-Plan), the time has come for TPWind's technical experts to move out of their meeting rooms and play a greater role on the shop floor.

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With the launch of the SET-Plan, the scope of TPWind has been extended, says Filippo Gagliardi, project manager for TPWind at the European Wind Energy Association (EWEA): "We will still discuss R&D needs, but as part of a bigger process ... to make sure that the (wind energy) road map is implemented properly."

The SET-Plan's wind road map, due to be approved and released this spring, is designed to help the wind sector meet targets for 2020 and beyond. The commission says that, with the right support, wind power could supply up to 20% of EU electricity by 2020 and as much as 33% by 2030, creating 250,000 jobs in the process. It foresees the building of extensive testing facilities for turbines and development of next-generation turbines with an energy production capacity of 10-20 MW. And it goes further, aiming for Europe to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions by 60-80% by 2050.

"We want to be involved in the implementation of the road map by, for example, identifying priority projects and setting up a funding database," says Gagliardi.

TPWind launched in 2006 as a forum to identify areas in the wind energy sector requiring improvements in policy and research and development, and to find new opportunities for collaboration among member states. Today, TPWind says that it has established itself and its agenda. "TP is now shaping the EU wind sector with the (European) Commission and member states," says its chairman, Henning Kruse. The SET-Plan will be one of the most important supports for the sector in the next few years, he adds, giving TPWind a greater sense of ambition and purpose.

Financing the road map

One significant question mark hanging over the road map is that of funding. The commission is seeking around EUR50 billion over the next ten years to develop low-carbon technologies under the SET-Plan, of which EUR6 billion is for the wind sector (Windpower Monthly, November 2009). It says that the bulk of the funds will have to come from the private sector and member states, with a contribution from the EU, but it does not set out how the money will be raised. "It is important for members to know how funding works," says Gagliardi. TPWind's database will provide details of all EU funding programmes relevant to wind energy operators, including those managed by the commission, the European Investment Bank and the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, as well as national programmes. It will list their budgets, objectives, website addresses, application and eligibility details. It will be open to TPWind members only and, as Windpower Monthly went to press, its online launch was imminent.

A wider audience

Encouraged by the commission, TPWind will be putting resources into forming closer ties with non-wind stakeholders who are interested in similar issues, and in publishing information for the widest possible audience. For example, Gagliardi says: "We will launch a website with relevant European Technology Platforms, organise a major yearly event for 2010/11 and publish a joint report on common wind, oil and gas R&D grid issues." It will also disseminate information via newsletters, the specialised media, its website, EWEA and industrial events.

TPWind relies on funding from the EU's executive arm to keep the forum afloat. It has submitted a proposal seeking funding for 15 projects and will learn at the spring EU council meeting whether it has been successful. "TPWind could receive up to EUR1 million to cover costs to 2013," says Gagliardi. "The new project is likely to include the launch of a call for an expression of interest in 2010 to reshuffle and enlarge TPWind's membership base and give new people a chance to get in." Kruse is confident that TPWind will be funded. "The commission is very pleased with our work," he says.

Despite its reliance on EU funding, TPWind makes it clear that it will remain a thorn in the EU's side on certain issues. Kruse acknowledges the work being done "to make EU wind a success", but adds that more needs to be done for it to reach its full potential. Nicholas Fichaux, TPWind secretary general, agrees. The SET-Plan will, he says, help the European wind industry meet its objectives of becoming the most competitive energy source on the market onshore in 2020 and offshore in 2030. But, while the commission's road map is closely aligned to TPWind's contribution, there are omissions that cause concern. Fichaux lists the development and best practices of offshore access vessels, supporting onshore facilities, long-term grid integration and support for wind power deployment.

Many of the grid problems are expected to be tackled by the European Grid Initiative infrastructure programme, but TPWind members caution against expecting this to address all the wind power sector's concerns, creating yet more potential work for TPWind to tackle in the coming years. And, while a wind training institute is not clearly on the road map, TPWind will continue to lobby for one, with the first step being to identify and publish existing courses.

Action now

Fichaux says there are other areas on the road map that cannot wait for SET-Plan's official approval this spring. TPWind must jump into action, make concrete proposals and discuss (implementation) with the commission, says Fichaux. "We need to involve member states on how to give financing," he says. "We need to involve industry, coordinate funding resources and discuss key performance indicators with the Joint Research Council."

Stefan Tostmann, head of the commission's energy technologies and research coordination unit in DGTren, agrees on industry's involvement, but he believes it should lead. This, he says, is not "some neo-liberal thinking by the commission", but "logical sense". While TPWind must focus on the SET-Plan implementation structure, the commission will try to provide common ways for member states to report, share and monitor work to make the process dynamic and transparent, says Tostmann.

The SET-Plan is the first time technological needs have been prioritised at the start of an EU project, says Tostmann. "Politicians are integrating it as part of a strategy," he says. "(And) the International Energy Agency is now coming to Brussels to learn how to do energy road maps." He believes Europe has found a way to communicate to politicians and to people with money. "This is the first time that people high up read these sorts of documents because they are clear and allow discussion," he says.

As there is some money available already, Tostmann says that immediate action is possible but, as it is not much, it will be a challenge to spend it wisely.

The final amounts to be set aside for research and development of energy projects under the EU's framework programme are EUR338 million for 2011, EUR380 million for 2012, and EUR449 million for 2013, he says, plus EUR500 million for member states for energy technology research each year, along with EUR200 million in loans.

TPWind can help define some clear mechanisms that do not yet exist, says Tostmann. "We need to be clear on our objectives to decide our priorities," he says. "We need to know where we are going and how to measure when we are on the right track. TPWind works well."

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