Europe’s building only half the wind energy it needs for the Green Deal

Europe is not building enough new wind energy to reach its Green Deal objectives, according to the latest annual statistics which have been released by wind energy advocacy and support group, WindEurope.

WindEurope’s Annual Statistics 2021 shows that the EU built only 11 GW of new wind farms in 2021 and is set to build 18 GW a year from 2022 to 2026. But the EU needs 30 GW a year of new wind to meet its 2030 renewables target. The slow expansion rate is impacting Europe’s wind energy supply chain, and, in a letter to European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, WindEurope has highlighted the “poor health” of the European wind energy industry.

81 per cent of the new wind capacity in Europe was onshore wind. The countries that built the most new wind last year were the UK, Sweden, Germany, Turkey, and the Netherlands. Sweden built the most onshore wind; the UK built the most offshore wind.

Three-quarters of the new installations from 2022 to 2026 will still be onshore wind. Germany is expected to install the most new wind capacity over the next five years followed by the UK, France, Spain, and Sweden.

“To reach its 40 per cent renewable energy target for 2030, the EU needs to build 30 GW of new wind a year. But it built only 11 GW last year and is set to build only 18 GW a year over the next five years. These low volumes undermine the Green Deal. And they are hurting Europe’s wind energy supply chain”, said WindEurope CEO Giles Dickson.

Most EU countries have ambitious national targets for the expansion of wind energy. But permitting remains the main bottleneck. Europe is not permitting anything like the volumes of new wind farms needed, and almost none of the Member States meets the deadlines for permitting procedures required in the EU Renewable Energy Directive. The permitting rules and procedures are too complex, and permitting authorities are not always adequately staffed.

In a letter to European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, WindEurope explained how the low volumes of permitted projects are impacting Europe’s wind turbine manufacturers and wider supply chain, and how the industry is also having to grapple with higher prices for steel and other commodities and disrupted international supply chains. In 2021 four out of Europe’s five wind turbine manufacturers were operating at a loss.

“The European wind industry is losing money, closing factories and shedding jobs – just when it should be growing to meet the huge expansion of wind power Europe wants. If this continues, the Green Deal is in trouble, not to mention Europe’s energy security goals”, said Dickson.

The European Green Deal means urgent action on climate – and boosting jobs, innovation, and energy security. Even before the current geopolitical crisis, it was clear that Europe needs to rapidly expand renewables. The high energy prices of the last year only amplify this need. They show the dangers of Europe importing 58 per cent of its energy and depending in particular on expensive fossil fuel imports – often from unreliable sources. They show that Europe’s industry and businesses urgently need more renewable energies ‘made in Europe’ – not least because renewable energy is cheaper than fossil energy.

Dickson commented further: “Europe needs to act now to ensure its renewables ambitions can be delivered by European companies and European workers. The solutions are there: simplify permitting, boost innovation and ensure Governments recognise and reward the value the European industry brings to society, the environment and the energy transition.”

Marco Mensink, Cefic Director-General, said: “The chemical industry in Europe was one of the first industrial sectors to support the EU Green Deal and has the ambition to become climate neutral. Our industry is undergoing a fundamental transition towards direct electrification and hydrogen. Wind energy is essential to deliver the huge amounts of renewable electricity the chemicals sector will require – reliably and at a low cost. WindEurope’s new figures clearly reveal that Europe is simply not adding enough new capacity. The sheer volumes needed by different industries, which all will increase electrification at the same time require urgent action from the European Commission and national Governments. Permitting and governments could become the key bottleneck in the Green Deal.”

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