Wind energy is set to overtake coal, nuclear and gas to become the EU’s largest power source well before 2030, according to the International Energy Agency’s 2018 World Energy Outlook.
According to the IEA’s projections, wind energy will become the EU’s largest power source in 2027, overtaking coal, nuclear and then gas in the process. This is compared to the IEA’s last projection made in its 2017 World Energy Outlook, where it said this would happen “soon after 2030”.
According to the IEA, wind electricity generation in the EU will more than triple to 1,100 TWh by 2040.
The IEA said that, in power markets, renewables have become the technology of choice, making up almost two-thirds of global capacity additions to 2040, thanks to falling costs and supportive government policies. This is transforming the global power mix, with the share of renewables in generation rising to over 40% by 2040, from 25% today, even though coal remains the largest source and gas remains the second-largest.
“This expansion brings major environmental benefits but also a new set of challenges that policy makers need to address quickly,” the IEA said. “With higher variability in supplies, power systems will need to make flexibility the cornerstone of future electricity markets in order to keep the lights on. The issue is of growing urgency as countries around the world are quickly ramping up their share of solar PV and wind, and will require market reforms, grid investments, as well as improving demand-response technologies, such as smart meters and battery storage technologies.”
The IEA’s prognosis was welcomed by the renewable energy industry. WindEurope chief executive Giles Dickson said, “This is a resounding vote of confidence in the further expansion of wind power in Europe. We’ve long been saying that more wind makes economic sense, as we’re the cheapest form of new power. It’s great that the IEA now sees wind being the number one source of electricity in Europe in less than 10 years. That will mean new windfarms and modernisation of existing ones, all of which will bring jobs, growth and revenues to local communities.
“But while it will be good to be number one in electricity, electricity is only 24% of Europe’s energy. To decarbonise the whole energy system, we’re going have to start getting large amounts of wind and other renewables into heating*, transport and industrial processes. It’s technically do-able and affordable. It just needs the right policies to drive investments in electric vehicles, heat pumps and electric boilers in district heating systems. The National Energy and Climate Plans for 2030 that EU member states are now preparing are a great opportunity to push these policies.”
*One way that it has been suggested that wind and other renewables could help decarbonise the energy system is ‘green hydrogen,’ using electricity from wind and solar to produce hydrogen which could then be used in heating, transport and industry.
An innovative trial that could help dramatically cut carbon emissions from heating has been given the go-ahead at Keele University in the UK. The HyDeploy project was approved by the Health and Safety Executive and will see hydrogen injected into the university’s existing natural gas network.
Hydrogen is a carbon-free gas that, when burned, only produces heat and water and could help reduce carbon emissions. Heating for homes and businesses accounts for nearly half of all energy use in the UK and one third of the country’s carbon emissions.
In a year-long pilot, due to start next year, HyDeploy will blend up to 20% of hydrogen (by volume) with the normal gas supply in part of Keele University’s private gas network, serving 17 faculty buildings and 100 domestic properties. Customers will continue to use gas as they do today, without any changes needed to gas appliances or pipework.