Offshore wind power: a chance for change

» By | Published 11 May 2010 |


As BP continues to search for ways to plug the leak that occurred three weeks ago at the Deepwater Horizon oil rig in the Gulf of Mexico spilling more than three million gallons of crude oil into the ocean, it is becoming more and more clear that the world needs alternative solutions.

Offshore wind power can provide part of the answer to the dilemma of reducing our dependence on finite and polluting fossil fuels. In Europe alone the winds blowing across the seas are an abundant energy source which can be transformed into green electricity that does not emit CO2, and will reduce Europe’s growing dependence on imported fossil fuels, creating thousands of sustainable jobs in the process.

There are currently 830 offshore wind turbines now installed and connected to the grid, totalling 2,063 MW in 39 wind farms in nine European countries. Some 17 offshore wind farms are under construction in Europe, totalling more than 3,500 MW, with just under half being constructed in UK waters. In addition, a further 52 offshore wind farms have won full consent in European waters, totalling more than 16,000 MW, with just over half of this capacity planned in Germany. And the growth rates are impressive: In 2009, the market grew by 54% compared to 2008. In 2010 the market grew by an even more considerable 75% compared to the previous year.

EWEA has a target of reaching 230 GW of wind power by 2020 which will include 40 GW of offshore power. This is a challenging but very feasible goal. By 2030, just ten years later, we envisage some 150 GW of offshore wind power.

If all offshore wind projects in their various stages of planning are added up, there are already some 100 GW of offshore wind projects in addition to existing farms. If these become fully functioning wind farms, they would produce 10% of the EU’s electricity while also avoiding 200 million tonnes of CO2 emissions each year.

Europe must now use the coming decade to prepare for the large-scale exploitation of its biggest indigenous energy resource – offshore wind – overcoming the seemingly significant obstacles – including underwater electricity grids and cables, building the harbours and barges capable of facilitating the installation of offshore wind farms – in the path of its development.

As the US and China are already beginning to show, Europe’s success in offshore wind power can then be repeated the world over.


European wind and cable industries are world leaders

» By | Published 04 May 2010 |

Christian KjaerAt the Europacable annual general meeting in Paris last week I raised the astounding fact that after 24 years of a single European market in goods, services, people and capital, we still do not have the fifth freedom: the free of movement of electricity. We urgently need to establish this. Europe’s current supply structure still bears the characteristics of the fossil-fuel powered time in which it was developed. It is national in nature, the technologies applied are ageing and the markets supporting it are underdeveloped.

Modern electricity infrastructure is the pre-condition to this fifth freedom and one in which Europacable plays a vital role. Over the next 12 years, Europe must use the opportunity created by the large turnover in capacity to construct a new, modern power system capable of meeting the energy and climate challenges of the 21st century. We need interconnected grids that create corridors of trade in electricity in Europe that will bring down prices for consumers.

We also need to introduce a smarter management of the electricity sector adjusting the rules and regulations on the supply side to meet the needs of wind energy. This must include shorter gate closure times so that the providers of wind energy can give two hours notice instead of two days notice of the amount of power they will supply. New rules must reflect the fact that for the last two years the majority of new electricity capacity installed was wind.

On the demand side we must move towards a more intelligent pricing of electricity giving consumers better price signals so that non-essential electricity consumption can be moved to times of lower demand.

The European cable industry and the European wind industry are both world leaders; they have this strong point in common. We can work together to create a European policy agenda that favours a better electricity infrastructure, bringing more and more wind power online and driving down prices for consumers.


Meeting our 100% renewables by 2050 target

» By | Published 26 Apr 2010 |

If we are to achieve 100% renewables by 2050, as I argued in my previous blog post that we can and we should, there are two major issues that we have to recognise and start acting. Firstly, no more fossil fuel burning plants should be built after 2020 given the long life of such power stations. Secondly, we must use the next ten years to completely overhaul the way electricity is produced, transmitted and consumed in Europe.

The fact is that Europe’s current electricity supply structure bears the characteristics of the time in which it was developed, a time when fossil fuels and then nuclear were everything. It is constructed within national boundaries, the markets supporting it are underdeveloped and it is now ageing. Given the international nature of the energy challenges that the EU is facing, it is disappointing that we still do not have an internal market for electricity. We need urgently to establish the free movement of energy in Europe.

“We must use the next ten years to completely overhaul the way electricity is produced, transmitted and consumed in Europe.”

Climate change, depleting indigenous energy resources, increasing fuel costs and the threat of supply disruptions are washing up on our shores. Over the next 12 years, 360 GW of new electricity capacity – 50% of current EU capacity – needs to be built to replace ageing power plants and meet the expected increase in demand.

Europe must use this opportunity to construct a new, modern power system capable of meeting the energy and climate challenges of the 21st century, while enhancing Europe’s competitiveness. The power system must be supported by modern infrastructure technology, research and development and well functioning markets for electricity and transmission in which investors, rather than consumers, are exposed to carbon and fuel price risk.

Next year is critical for the EU to prove it is up to the challenge. In 2011, the European Commission will set out its proposals for the 2014-2020 budget which must reflect these new priorities. The budget must include investment in upgraded, extended and interconnected grids, and more R&D in wind technology. During the same year, ENTSO-E, the European Network of Transmission System Operators for Electricity, will set out what will be built in terms of grids until 2022. We are looking forward to the proof that the EU is truly committed to tackling climate change by bringing large amounts of renewable energy online.


We must stop building new fossil fuel plants by 2020

» By | Published 20 Apr 2010 |

Christian KjaerEuropean governments, the European Commission and the European Parliament have begun discussions on how the European energy system should look like in 2050. It is clear that political actions are needed this decade to prepare for such a dramatic overhaul of our energy supply structure.

The EU and the G8 have agreed to cut emissions by 80% in 2050, with the EU saying it will deepen cuts to 95% if other countries sign up to similar action. These commitments mean that the power sector will need to be 100% carbon free by 2050, since transport and agriculture will need the residual 20% emissions.

Power plants have a long lifetime and, if we are to keep to the 2050 limit, this means that no carbon emitting power plant can be constructed in the European Union after 2020.

The first question to any responsible politician – European or from any other industrialised country – talking about 80% greenhouse gas emissions reductions by 2050 must be: What measures do you propose to ensure that no carbon emitting power plant is constructed after 2020?

Many stakeholders will – and are – pushing for a combination of renewable energy, nuclear energy and carbon capture and storage (CCS) to achieve zero-carbon power by 2050. They will argue that we need all technologies to decarbonise our power sector. It is not correct that we need them all to achieve a carbon free power sector in 2050. Renewable energy can do it alone with a massive contribution from onshore and offshore wind energy.

“Renewable energy can do it alone with a massive contribution from wind energy.”

In 2000, 21% of new power capacity installed in the EU was from renewable energy technologies (19% was wind energy). In 2009, the share had increased to 62% (39% wind). In the past ten years, the EU increased renewable energy’s share of new power capacity by 40%-points to 61%. There are no fundamental technical barriers to fill the remaining 39% gap and source all our new power capacity from renewables by 2020.

The wind energy sector should make a loud and clear statement in the current energy debate about 2050 that we do not need 100% zero-carbon (meaning a combination of renewables, nuclear energy and coal CCS) by 2050. We need 100% renewable energy by 2020.