Leaders must recognise that wind energy can provide long term growth

» By | Published 22 May 2012

Wind energy can create economic activity and jobs, while saving money – that’s one of the conclusions Christian Kjaer, CEO of the European Wind Energy Association (EWEA), reaches in an opinion article published today in advance of the beginning of the European Council informal growth summit.

Kjaer also said in the Windpower Monthly article that wind energy could be the ideal catalyst to create jobs while reducing Europe’s energy imports.

Noting that European leaders will bring their differences to the table 23 May to discuss how to achieve growth while addressing massive budgetary challenges, Kjaer said every EU citizen is currently paying more than €700 for energy imports.

“This is increasing as Europe’s fossil fuel production drops and prices climb,” he said. “That money would be better spent deploying domestic renewable technologies: reducing imports while reaping the economic benefits of exports.”

Kjaer added that according to a recent EWEA report — ‘Green Growth: the impact of wind energy on jobs and the economy’ — the wind energy sector’s growth rate in 2010 was twice that of EU GDP.

From 2007 to 2010 the sector’s contribution to GDP went up by 33%, reaching €32.4 billion, he said. ”As EU employment fell by 9.6% from 2007 to 2010, direct and indirect wind energy jobs in Europe went up 30% to nearly 240,000. Over 50 new jobs were created in the sector daily.”

Kjaer said that by 2020, the European wind sector could create 520,000 jobs, and its GDP could increase almost three-fold to reach nearly €94.5 bn by 2020.

He added that in 2009, of the three areas selected for funding by the €4 billion European Energy Programme for Recovery, offshore wind energy, although allocated just €565 million (14% of the budget), created ten times more jobs than Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS).

Today, leaders need to avoid abrupt, and especially retroactive, changes to the ways in which renewable energy is supported, he continued, so that investors know they can count on that support.

Kjaer said that includes an ambitious and binding 2030 renewables target as part of a legal framework post-2020, necessary grid infrastructure improvements and the development of a functioning European electricity market.

He added that while politicians change every few years, a political commitment made now to the wind energy sector would have long-term and far-reaching benefits across Europe.

Renewables and climate change on G-8 agenda

Kjaer’s comments were published just days after leaders of the Group of Eight (G-8) major economies came up with the Camp David Declaration, which addressed major political and economic challenges.

Six of the 39 points agreed to by the G-8 leaders — representing US, UK, Germany, France, Italy, Japan, Russia and Canada — dealt with energy and climate change.

The leaders said they recognised “the importance of meeting our energy needs from a wide variety of sources ranging from traditional fuels to renewables to other clean technologies.”

They said they also recognise the importance of pursuing and promoting sustainable energy and low carbon policies in order to tackle the global challenge of climate change.

“To facilitate the trade of energy around the world,” they said, “we commit to take further steps to remove obstacles to the evolution of global energy infrastructure; to reduce barriers and refrain from discriminatory measures that impede market access; and to pursue universal access to cleaner, safer, and more affordable energy.”

The leaders also recognised that increasing energy efficiency and reliance on renewables and other clean energy technologies can contribute significantly to energy security and savings, while also addressing climate change and promoting sustainable economic growth and innovation.  “We welcome sustained, cost-effective policies to support reliable renewable energy sources and their market integration.”

Lastly, they said they strongly support efforts to rationalise and phase-out over the medium term inefficient fossil fuel subsidies that encourage wasteful consumption, and to continue voluntary reporting on progress.