As 2008 comes to a close, wind power gets EU support
As the last few diminishing wisps of 2008 still bravely cling to a calendar forever intent on marching forward in time, it seems appropriate to salute the passing year for what was achieved.
In the world of European wind power, the main development, like a football overtime score, didn’t occur until very late in the game: namely on 9 December, when the EU endorsed the much anticipated Renewable Energy Directive which will start Europe on the path to a renewable future.
The European Wind Energy Association (EWEA) is more than pleased that policy makers approving the legislation decided that 20% of Europe’s energy supply must come from renewables by 2020. As part of the agreement, one-third of EU electricity will come from renewable sources in 12 years’ time. Non-polluting wind power is expected to generate up to 14% of EU electricity demand by 2020, compared to 3.7% in 2007.
For EWEA, the new Renewable Energy Directive is an overwhelming vote of confidence in wind power, which is already established as the renewable energy technology of choice. Now, armed with the legislation, the unleashed power of wind is ready to reach spectacular new heights. There will be many new investment, business and manufacturing opportunities. Research and development, with additional funding, will thrive. Tens of thousands of well-paying jobs will be created.
For Europe, the legislation will translate into phenomenally massive fuel cost savings while the uncertainty associated with the ever increasing importation of oil and gas from unstable regions will begin to lessen.
For the environment, the directive will help mitigate global warming, caused primarily by greenhouse gases from burning fossil fuels. Once again, wind is already showing the way. In 2007, with 56 GW of cumulative installed capacity, EU wind power avoided the emission of 91 million tonnes (Mt) of CO₂ – equal to taking 46 million cars off the road. By 2020, with an expected 180 GW of installed capacity, wind power could avoid 328 Mt of CO₂, equivalent to neutralising 165 million cars.
It must also be noted that three days after the directive was passed, the EU Heads of State adopted a general principle of 100% auctioning of CO₂ allowances in the power sector.
While the two measures will be forceful drivers for Europe’s wind power industry, EWEA was not impressed that Council watered down its previous commitment to domestic EU carbon reductions by allowing at least half of the reduction effort to be met by external credits in non-EU countries.
Still, despite that criticism, a climate and energy deal was eventually reached. European policy makers, who were also busy dealing with a global financial meltdown, finally did the right thing by passing the legislation.
With regard to the Renewable Energy Directive especially, the politicians accepted what EWEA has been saying for years: wind power is local, affordable, sustainable and dependable. New wind farms can be installed quickly and benefits realised almost immediately. Wind is a key solution in fighting climate change.
Wind is also, according to the directive’s subtext, a cornerstone of our collective tomorrow. In essence, we all win with wind.
Now that’s a legacy worth celebrating.
22 December 2008