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Wind industry celebrates global milestone at EWEC 2008

30.04.2008

As the European Wind Energy Conference 2008 opened its doors to a record 6,000 delegates at the end of March, a wind energy milestone was reached: the installation of 100 GW of operating capacity globally.

Speakers at the conference, held in Brussels this year, were confident that the industry would continue to expand at the annual growth rates seen in recent years of close to 20%. The Global Wind Energy Council (GWEC) now foresees the global wind power market growing by over 155% to reach 240 GW of total installed capacity by 2012. BTM Consult forecasts 140,000 MW of annual installations over the next thirteen years, which will give a global cumulative installed capacity of nearly 1 million MW (1,000 GW) by 2020, and enable wind power to provide 7–8% of the world’s electricity demand.

European outlook

At a political level the conference was dominated by discussions on the European Commission’s proposed Renewable Energy Directive, which translates the 20% renewables binding target by 2020 into specific targets for each member state, and requires national action plans to be drawn up.

Although some European countries under-performed last year, there was confidence that they and others would bounce back, especially with the additional driver of the 20% by 2020 binding target. Wind power continued to be one of the most popular electricity generating technologies in the EU in 2007, making up 40% of total new power installations.

“Wind has delivered the most promising results out of all renewable energy technologies so far, with 57 GW of total capacity installed in the EU by the end of 2007. In order to ensure that this trend continues, we need to have a secure and favourable EU legislative framework”, EU Energy Commissioner Andris Piebalgs told delegates at the opening session of the conference.

New in 2008

An important feature of EWEC 2008 was the first ever Wind Energy Finance Forum, a series of sessions on finance and economics given by financial and business experts. Their overall conclusion was that, although very large of sums of money are required to support the industry in its next phase of expansion, the necessary money will be made available because wind’s prospects are so strong and positive. Although risk was inevitably on the agenda, the consensus was that this is something which is both manageable and limited.

Another first this year was the specialised Job Fair, which brought together 350 potential employees and 32 of the sector’s leading companies. There has already been a significant number of jobs created in, or in relation to, the wind energy sector - EWEA uses a tentative figure of 150,000 jobs in the EU altogether – but tens of thousands of technical and managerial posts need to be filled to enable wind energy to grow as it should. According to the European Commission-funded MITRE project report, 368,000 new jobs could be created in Europe by 2020.

Pure Power report

At the opening session of the conference, EWEA president Arthouros Zervos launched the Association’s latest publication. Entitled Pure Power - Wind Energy Scenarios up to 2030, it outlines the road towards large-scale wind energy. Presenting three development scenarios for 2010, 2020 and 2030, the report examines in detail the probable impact on electricity, greenhouse gas emissions and the EU economy.

Pure Power shows that the European Commission’s goal of increasing wind power's share up to 12-14% by 2020 is within reach. "On average, wind power capacity needs to increase by 9.5 GW per year over the next 13 years to reach 180 GW and meet 12-14% of EU power demand in 2020. This is certainly achievable considering that the EU wind energy capacity increased by 8.5 GW last year" commented Christian Kjaer, EWEA's Chief Executive.

Moreover, the wind industry target of 180 GW by 2020 is equivalent to supplying the electricity needs of 107 million average EU households. This would avoid the emission of 328 Mt of CO2 - the equivalent of taking 165 million cars off the road - and avoid yearly fuel costs of €20.5 billion and CO2 costs of €8.2 billion.

Generating benefits

EWEA’s “Generation Wind” campaign, also launched at EWEC, focuses on the key benefits that the 180 GW of wind energy would bring to Europe, and the barriers impeding its development. Using cartoon-style visuals, the campaign underlines the issues associated with bureaucratic administrative procedures, access to the grid, national support mechanisms and public acceptance, as well as the economic growth, a clean environment, energy independence and job creation wind energy can bring.

As EWEC 2008 drew to a close, the EU’s Research Commissioner, Janez Potočnik, praised the “remarkable European success story” of wind energy but said that more than a business as usual approach was needed to reach EWEA’s targets. That was why the Commission had launched the Strategic Energy Technology plan, which will contain a Wind Industrial Initiative, to achieve technological breakthroughs for low carbon sources.

“The current mechanisms and models of cooperation for wind energy are insufficient to meet the challenges faced by the EU energy policy. By encouraging European Industrial Initiatives, we will strengthen energy research and innovation undertaken by industry and its partners. So a European Wind Industrial Initiative is a timely opportunity”.

The last word was left with Arthorous Zervos, EWEA President, who concluded that “The four days of discussions and presentations at EWEC 2008 have reinforced the importance of wind energy as a potent energy and climate solution for Europe and the rest of the world.”

He stressed how crucial it is that the European Commission’s proposed Renewable Energy Directive is effectively and quickly adopted and implemented. “In this way, Europe will benefit from all wind energy has to offer, and witness the coming of a new generation of energy supply.”

Information on EWEC 2008 in Brussels
Information on EWEC 2009 in Marseille

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