Industry blown away by record year for wind

More wind power was added to Europe’s grid in 2017 than any year in history as records were smashed for both onshore and offshore installations. In total 15.7 GW of new wind power came online in the EU in 2017.

National records were also broken in Germany, the UK, France, Finland, Belgium, Ireland and Croatia, which all installed more new wind capacity in 2017 than in any previous year.

The figures were released by Wind Europe, a trade body that represents the growing European wind industry.

Wind Europe’s CEO Giles Dikson said the growth in wind power proved that higher targets for renewable were not just affordable but desirable:

“It’s now clear given the recent expansion of renewables and the rapidly falling costs that Europe can deliver on a 35% renewables target for 2030.”

The 35% target for renewables has been set by the European Parliament but threatens to be undermined by national governments as negotiations continue between EU institutions.

So far, only one government has come out to explicitly back higher targets. Last week Sweden announced it would support more ambition on renewable energy and energy efficiency to help deliver Paris climate commitments.

Increasing the percentage of energy that comes from renewables alone will not be enough to meet Paris commitments. Measures to boost energy efficiency will also be essential.

Improving the insulation of buildings, modernising industrial facilities and setting standards for household appliances so they use less energy will all be required to reducing our overall demand for energy.

The importance of improving energy efficiency is underlined by the fact that the 15.7 GW of new wind power in 2017 was the equivalent of just eight large coal-fired power stations. The EU still has 288 coal-burning plants that will need to close in the next decade as Europe moves beyond coal.

Wind power is now the second largest form of power generation capacity in Europe, providing 169 GW, or just over 11% of the EU’s electricity needs. This puts wind just behind gas and just ahead of coal, which is still burnt to produce 156 GW of power.

Germany is the country with the most wind power, with a total of 56 GW it has more than twice the installed capacity of the next biggest user – Spain.

Graphic courtesy of WindEurope

Denmark leads Europe in terms of the highest percentage of electricity being generated by wind, with an impressive 44% of all Danish electricity generation coming from this source.

However, Dikson warned that the recent growth in wind energy was not guaranteed to continue and that governments and the EU need to offer greater certainty and commitment when it comes to renewables:

“… despite the strong figures the medium and longer term outlook for wind is uncertain. We lack clarity from many Governments on their ambitions for renewables post-2020. Countries need to start clarifying how much wind energy they want to deploy in the future. This will give visibility to the industry, allowing us to plan ahead and reduce costs.”

Improving access to clean and affordable energy and boosting renewable and energy efficiency are central in goal 7 of the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Alongside Paris climate commitments, all EU member states are committed to delivering the SDGs.