According to EWEA, over the last eight years, only new gas capacity has exceeded new wind power capacity in the EU.
“Since 2000, 30% of all installed electricity generating capacity in the EU has been wind power,” it says.
It notes that, while wind energy today meets 3.7% of EU’s electricity demand, encouragingly, the technology is already the second largest contributor to economic activity and jobs in power plant manufacturing.
In 2003, EWEA set the target of 75,000MW installed in the EU-15 by 2010 and 180,000MW by 2020. Back then, it was expected that 54,350MW would be operating by the end of 2006. The actual figure for end-2007 was 55,860MW in EU-15 and led to targets being revised – as one would expect.
Built into the revision are the union’s 12 most recent member additions, and the result is that EWEA calculates that 80,000MW of wind will be operating in the EU-27 by the end of the decade.
Offshore wind is expected to reach 3,500MW (4% of total capacity) in 2010, compared with 1,080 (2% of total capacity) by the end of 2006. The UK is set to make a significant contribution in that regard. That said, it is by no means clear whether the Thames Array project is factored into the numbers, bearing in mind that, just a few weeks ago, Shell pulled out of the 1,000MW scheme, leaving partners E.ON and DONG Energy floundering.
E.ON’s UK CEO, Paul Golby, signalled to a Manchester-based broadsheet that Shell’s pullout might sink the scheme.
“Shell has introduced a new element of risk into the project which will need to be assessed,” said Golbay.
“The current economics of the project are marginal at best,” he added, citing steel costs and supply bottlenecks – despite the UK’s ROCs system as an incentive.
Naturally, the UK Government flannelled, indicating that the project would probably still go ahead. Meanwhile, as someone who has direct experience of the massive cost inflation now being experienced by the wind industry, I am less confident.
For sure, the statement attributed to Golby signals that E.ON is worried. Shell was a powerful partner – one of the very best. Might Denmark’s DONG also be worried. I’d say this is highly likely.
If a 1,000MW windfarm built on sandbanks in the Thames estuary is deemed uneconomic, then that begs the question as to whether any current UK offshore windfarm proposal is economic. And what then are the implications for other offshore EU schemes, therefore EWEA assumptions?
But there is a little breathing space in which solutions might be articulated – implemented perhaps, bearing in mind that the European Commission’s 1997 White Paper on Renewable Sources of Energy set a target for 40,000MW of wind power to be installed in the EU by 2010. That target was reached in 2005, five years early. The overall white paper target included an increase in electricity production from renewables of 338TWh (Terawatt hours) between 1995 and 2010.
As EWEA’s analysis shows, wind power is expected to produce 177TWh in 2010, thereby meeting 52% of the overall white paper target.