Political commitment to wind energy is vital for green growth

» By | Published 16 Apr 2012

Danish PM Helle Thorning-Schmidt

“This is the place to be for renewable energy and green growth”, Helle Thorning-Schmidt, Prime Minister of Denmark, said in Copenhagen this morning at the opening of the European Wind Energy Association’s Annual Event. And with 25,000 jobs in the Danish wind sector, which provides 60 billion in Danish Kroner in exports per year, she’s not wrong.

Denmark is a bright beacon for the wind industry – by 2020 it aims to meet 50% of its electricity demand with wind power – a target which will create 8,000 new jobs. But whilst Denmark’s commitment to a greener future remains resolute, across Europe other countries are swapping long-term vision for short-term gain.

“In a crisis, political priorities tend to shift – the long term gives away to short term goals and the danger is that green ambitions are lowered,” she warned. But “my government believes that the green agenda is about jobs in the short term, and the climate and fuel security in the long run,” the prime minister said to a packed auditorium at EWEA’s Annual Event.

“We need to scale up our investments in Europe’s green sector. We need to secure the necessary political target in Brussels and then together we can transform the European economy into a green superpower,” she said.

Speaking at the EWEA 2012 opening session, Günther Oettinger, European Commissioner for Energy, echoed Prime Minister Thorning-Schmidt’s concerns. Cutting government support for renewable energy has negative consequences, he said. In these difficult economic times, “renewables support has been used by a scapegoat by governments in economic or financial difficulties. However public deficits are not caused by support for renewables” he said. “We therefore want to pick up on this in the renewable energy strategy that we will publish before the summer,” he promised.

Wind power must innovate

But it’s not just about support schemes, it’s also about innovations that the wind industry itself can create to bring down costs. Europe is close to reaching 100 GW  wind energy capacity, supplying power to 50 million households, Felix Ferlemann, EWEA conference chair and CEO of Siemens Wind Power, said. And the industry has a target of supplying 50% of Europe’s electricity demand by 2050. “We must make wind power directly competitive with traditional energy sources…I am confident that this will happen in the next decade,” Ferlemann said. Arthuros Zervos, EWEA President, said in his speech at the opening session that “Onshore wind is already competitive with new gas and coal – and considerably cheaper than new nuclear”.

At the start of this year’s Annual Event, opened by Crown Prince Frederik of Denmark, innovation is the buzz word that is getting people talking. The conference itself is aiming to be innovative with new lively and popular sessions including one designed like an Oxford debate inviting participants to vote for and against motions on competition from China and securing finance and investment for wind. Are you missing out on the innovation buzz? Find out here how you can attend the Annual Event conference and/or exhibition in Copenhagen.

100% clean energy in Europe by 2020

Also this morning at EWEA 2012, a wide coalition of engineering, energy and technology companies  along with civil society organisations, presented to Martin Lidegaard, Danish minister for energy, a declaration calling for 100% clean energy in Europe by 2050.

More than 300 signatories, including Vestas , Schneider Electric and EWEA, presented the “100% renewables declaration” that envisions by mid-century stronger energy efficiencies, investments to unlock the full potential of renewables, better incentives for a smart energy grid and an end to fossil fuel and nuclear subsidies.

“Confronted not only with an economic downturn, but in particular with the challenges posed by climate change, an increasing fuel import dependency and rising fossil fuel prices, Europe urgently needs to develop solutions for a future sustainable energy system entirely based on renewable energy sources,” the declaration said.

Lidegaard said he would share the declaration calling for an entirely clean energy future with policy makers debating the issue.“I think it’s doable, I think it’s necessary and it’s also good for the economy,” he said.

What else does the wind industry need? Grid infrastructure and a single European energy market! Read more here.

Get more facts on how wind energy is powering Europe’s economy here (full report here).

Read the declaration

Additional reporting by Chris Rose

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Categories: EWEA, Wind energy