Europe’s moment of truth includes more wind power and improved grids
Wind energy, electricity consumers, job seekers and the environment all received good news last week with two announcements from the new European Commission designed to promote greater grid development and use of renewable energy sources over the next decade.
As part of its European Economic Recovery Plan, the Commission announced more than €903 million for nine electricity interconnection projects within the EU, including the vital France-Spain interconnection which would ensure more efficient interconnectivity between the Iberian peninsula and the rest of Europe.
The Commission also earmarked funds for a link between Sweden and the Baltic States, the Nordbalt line, as well as to reinforce an interconnection between Finland and Estonia, Estlink-2, amongst other transmission lines.
The funds will not only spur on wind power development in Europe, but will help improve the region’s electricity markets while benefiting consumers with cheaper utility rates.
Günther Oettinger, European Commissioner responsible for Energy, was absolutely correct when he stated that the selected projects will create a more integrated energy network ensuring flexible energy flows across Member States’ borders.“Europe's energy and climate objectives require large and risky infrastructure investments with long pay-back times,” Oettinger said. “The problem is that, in today's economic climate, such projects risk being delayed. This is a moment where Europe can play an important role in keeping these projects on track.”
Wind energy got another boost last week when the European Commission published Europe 2020: A European strategy for smart, sustainable and inclusive growth, a report that contains grid and market commitments.
Smart and sustainable growth are two of the three priorities put forward by the Commission for the development of Europe’s economy over the next decade. The two priorities are to be implemented through seven so-called ‘flagship initiatives.’
The Commission says one of the initiatives is ‘resource efficient Europe,’ which would work “to complete the internal energy market and implement the strategic energy technologies (SET) plan, promoting renewable sources of energy in the single market would also be a priority.”
The Commission said there would also be a plan to “upgrade Europe’s networks, including Trans European Energy Networks, towards a European supergrid, ‘smart grids’ and interconnections in particular of renewable energy sources to the grid (with support of structural funds and EIB).”
It is worth noting that in the report’s preface, José Manuel Barroso, President of the European Commission, said 2010 must mark a new beginning.
“I want Europe to emerge stronger from the economic and financial crisis,”Barroso said. “The crisis is a wake-up call, the moment where we recognise that ‘business as usual’ would consign us to a gradual decline, to the second rank of the new global order. This is Europe's moment of truth. It is the time to be bold and ambitious.”
Barroso also said Europe must look beyond the short term if it is to achieve a sustainable future.
“Europe needs to get back on track. Then it must stay on track. That is the purpose of Europe 2020. It's about more jobs and better lives. It shows how Europe has the capability to deliver smart, sustainable and inclusive growth, to find the path to create new jobs and to offer a sense of direction to our societies.”
The European Wind Energy Association (EWEA) agrees with Barroso that now is the time for bold and ambitious plans that will help the EU gain energy independence, create new jobs and mitigate the considerable damage caused by greenhouse gas emissions from burning fossil fuels.
EWEA believes that an upgraded, expanded supergrid and a truly integrated European energy market would not only provide a massive boost for emissions-free wind energy, but would create hundreds of thousands of much-needed new jobs as well as benefitting electricity consumers.
It looks like the Commission does too. Last week’s news was welcome but now it is time for policy makers to deliver on the promises.
By Chris Rose, EWEA