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BB200706, Policy News

EWEC 2007: Highlighting the renewable future

18.05.2007

The impressive success story of wind power in recent years, and the forthcoming challenges related to meeting the new EU target, were the main focus of the opening session of EWEC 2007, held on 7-10 May in the Milan Convention Centre. A record 5,000 people attended the event and over 200 companies exhibited.

Wind power could be generating up to 16% of Europe’s electricity by 2020, delegates heard at the opening of the European Wind Energy Conference in Milan last month. Commenting on the future for European wind power up to 2020, Arthouros Zervos asserted that electricity generation from wind would require a five-fold increase in order to achieve a contribution of between 13% and 16%, depending on total future demand.

By the end of 2006, a record year, wind had reached 48,000 MW, or 3.3% of EU consumption. The market was also expanding outside Germany, Spain and Denmark – the most successful wind energy markets. “The wind energy sector accepts the challenge of the 20% by 2020 target,” stated Zervos.

Conference Chairman Peter Ahmels told delegates that if the EU’s mandatory target is to be achieved, then more than a third of European electricity needs must come from renewable sources. “This has sent a clear political signal,” maintained Ahmels. “It is no less than the beginning of a second industrial revolution. Fossil fuels would be replaced by new technology, know-how and a highly qualified workforce,” he added.

This message was brought home by a new EWEA video entitled Seize the Opportunity. The film follows the European energy agenda from the current supply crisis - the recent tripling of the oil price means Europe is paying an additional € 30 billion on annual gas imports - to the potential for wind energy to enable a shift from old to new power sources. The film featured a number of leading politicians, including Energy Commissioner, Andris Piebalgs, and European Parliament Vice President Mechtild Rothe.

20% target - Fair shares

Ms. Rothe told the Conference that it was essential for the new target to be fairly divided between the 27 Member States: “Every Member State can increase their share. Every single country has huge potential. I have not heard from any country in the world where the wind does not blow or the sun does not shine. It is no longer acceptable for Member States to argue that renewables are only for rich countries and that energy efficiency hinders their economic growth.”

Representing the European Commission, Fabrizio Barbaso, Deputy Director General for Energy, said that a new legal framework for renewable energy would be proposed in the autumn, following negotiated national plans with every Member State. “We want national targets per sector and we want the efforts and opportunities to be shared between the 27 countries,” he confirmed. “The Commission will then monitor very closely the progress made by every country.”

Michael Müller, Parliamentary State Secretary in Germany’s Environment Ministry, also addressed the opening session. He underlined the dire consequences for the global climate outlined in the most recent IPCC report. “With the threat of climate change, we only have a short time to avoid destruction of the planet,” he said. “The increased renewable share required will only be possible if the development of wind power, both on and offshore, is advanced as strongly as possible.”

At a press conference following the session, Mr. Müller added that if Europe was committed to 20% renewables, Germany would aim for 40%.

Offshore “Needs to Go Faster”

Speaker after speaker at EWEC 2007 stressed that if wind power is to achieve its future targets, offshore projects need to develop faster. “The big challenge in Europe is offshore,” EWEA President Arthouros Zervos told the opening press conference. “We can’t achieve our target without it. This is where we need to put our efforts - bearing in mind that there is still enormous untapped European onshore potential – and we need a contribution from both Member States and the Commission”. For this reason, EWEA has repeatedly called for the establishment of an EU-supported offshore wind action plan.

In the Conference session on Offshore development and prospects, the potential in a number of EU Member States was outlined.

Loic Blanchard of EWEA was optimistic about offshore but maintained that it was still a very limited market. “EWEA would like to go faster and we would like offshore to grow faster.”

Exhibition: Business Booms in Busiest Show

Potential customers were queuing up to talk to turbine suppliers in one of the busiest exhibition areas ever seen at a European wind event. Many visitors came to investigate business opportunities at the 200 stands, as well as to spend time in the conference sessions.

All the major turbine manufacturers were represented in the halls of the Milan Convention Centre. Reflecting the maturity of the industry, none were offering any radical new models, preferring to concentrate on sales of their existing range.

Most exhibitors seemed more than happy with the level of interest in their products. “It’s working absolutely perfectly,” stated Per Hornung Pedersen, CEO of turbine manufacturer Suzlon. “The wind industry is in fantastic shape right now, with these strong twin drivers of demand for electricity and climate change. You could satisfy your supply from different sources, but wind has become a competitive technology in comparison with fossil fuels.”

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The EWEC 2007 Conference received funding from The Intelligent Energy - Europe programme. This is the EU's tool for funding action to improve conditions for saving energy and for encouraging the use of renewable energy sources in Europe, thus moving us towards a more energy intelligent Europe.

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