WindEurope has warned that permitting procedures for windfarms are ‘too complex’ and are acting as a drag on new generating capacity
Publishing statistics on wind energy in Europe in 2020, WindEurope said Europe built 14.7 GW of new windfarms in 2020. This was 19% less than what was expected before Covid-19. 80% of the new capacity was onshore wind. The Netherlands built the most (2 GW, mostly offshore) followed by Germany, Norway, Spain and France. The EU27 accounted for 10.3 GW of new capacity. Wind accounted for 16% of all of the electricity consumed in Europe in 2020. It was 27% in Germany and the UK, 22% in Spain and 48% in Denmark.
Looking ahead, WindEurope expects Europe to build 105 GW of new windfarms over the next five years, over 70% of which will be onshore. But this is well below the pace needed to deliver the Green Deal and climate neutrality.
The EU27 are set to build only 15 GW per year of new wind between 2021 and 2025 – they need to build 17 GW per year between 2021 and 2030 to deliver the EU 2030 renewables target and 27 GW per year to deliver the higher target coming with the 55% climate target.
WindEurope said the main problem is permitting. Permitting rules and procedures are too complex, and governments at all levels are not employing enough people to process permit applications.
The result is it is taking too long to get permits for new projects, permit decisions are being challenged in courts and developers are deterred from pursuing new projects because of the risks and costs involved. “Governments need to take urgent action to address this,” WindEurope said.
Germany, which has long been the engine of the wind energy in Europe, only installed 1.65 GW of wind capacity last year, its lowest in a decade. Many of its wind auctions were undersubscribed. Permitting has been the main problem, but the number of new windfarm permits actually increased last year. This suggests a recovery is ahead, but Germany remains far off from what it needs to install to meet its renewables targets.
More encouragingly, Poland built a significant amount of new onshore wind and has committed to a major buildout of offshore wind. France saw further steady expansion of onshore wind and will start installing its first commercial offshore windfarms in the coming years.
WindEurope chief executive Giles Dickson said, “Wind is now 16% of Europe’s electricity. But Europe is not building enough new windfarms to deliver the EU’s climate and energy goals.
“The main problem is permitting. Permitting rules and procedures are too complex. There are not enough people working in the permitting authorities to process permit applications. Governments have to address this. Otherwise the Green Deal is at risk.”
And it is not just the wind industry that is worried, said WindEurope. So are Europe’s core manufacturing industries that are looking to wind energy to support their decarbonisation goals. Steel and chemicals are two energy-intensive sectors that both want more windfarms, to help electrify their processes or to power them with renewable hydrogen. Their competitiveness depends on adequate amounts of affordable wind energy.
European Chemical Industry Council director general Marco Mensink said, “Renewable electricity including wind power is a cornerstone in the decarbonisation of the chemical industry in Europe. We simply need it, we need it at a competitive price and we need more, both for direct electrification and to fulfil our central role in the hydrogen economy.
“WindEurope’s new figures clearly reveal a problem in the future supply as simply not enough capacity is being added. The sheer volume needed by different industries, who all will increase electrification at the same time and increase demand, requires targeted action.
“A specific focus on electrification in industry, sectoral roadmaps to inform and strengthen the Commission’s Industrial Ecosystems model, greater policy coherence across the board and adaptive state aid and competition law frameworks to enable the new models of cross-sector cooperation which President von der Leyen has called for are all needed.”
European Steel Association director general Axel Eggert said the EU needs to “speed up significantly” the installation of wind capacity. “Wind energy and steel form a critical ecosystem in Europe and will be even more important on Europe’s way to carbon neutrality and circularity.
“Our industry is eager to deliver not only 100% recyclable steel to its clients, including the wind industry, but also steel that is CO2 neutral. For this, we need wind energy to help providing the 400 TWh of electricity that our industry requires by 2050, an amount comparable to the electricity consumption of France.”