The EU wind energy sector installed 11.6 gigawatts (GW) of capacity last year, bringing the total wind power capacity to 105.6 GW, according to the latest figures issued by the European Wind Energy Association (EWEA).
This is measurably higher than the 9.4 GW installed in 2011, despite the EU’s financial and economic crisis that has dragged on since at least 2008.
But the next two or three years could prove rough for the wind industry.
“The 2012 figures reflect orders made before the wave of political uncertainty that has swept across Europe since 2011, which is having a hugely negative impact on the wind energy sector”, said Christian Kjaer, CEO of EWEA. “We expect this instability to be far more apparent in 2013 and 2014 installation levels.”
Wind energy represented 26% of all new EU power capacity installed last year, and investments in the range 12.8-17.2billion euros (£11-14.8billion). It is now meeting 7% of Europe’s electricity demand – up from 6.3% at end 2011.
Because of the problems, the EU is almost 2 GW (1.7%) behind its National Renewable Energy Action Plan forecasts. Eighteen Member States are falling behind, including Slovakia, Greece, Czech Republic, Hungary, France and Portugal.
The UK was among the better performers, which accounted for the lion’s share of new offshore capacity.
Renewable energy represented 69% of all new power capacity in 2012, while in a continuing trend fuel oil, coal and nuclear capacity saw negative growth due to decommissioning.
Last year, wind energy installations were led by Germany (2.4GW, 21% of all new wind power capacity), the UK (1.9GW, 16%), Italy (1.3GW, 11%), Romania (0.9GW, 8%) and Poland (0.9GW, 8%).
In terms of total installed capacity, Germany is also the leader with 31.3GW (30%), followed by Spain (22.8GW, 22%), the UK (8.4GW, 8%), Italy (8.1GW, 8%) and France (7.2GW, 7%).
The spread of wind energy across Europe is shown by the fact that Denmark, Germany and Spain represented 33% of annual wind power installations in the EU in 2012, down from 85% in 2000.
Offshore saw a record growth last year, and the trend is expected to continue in 2013 and 2014. Offshore accounted for 10% of total EU wind power installations last year . . . up 1% on 2011. Offshore, the UK led with 845MW of capacity installed.
Compared to EWEA’s 2009 forecast, onshore installations are 3GW above expectations (+3%). Offshore installations are below EWEA’s expectations by 307MW (-6%).