Wind not growing fast enough for EU to go climate-neutral


Europe deployed 14.7 GW of new wind power in 2020, of which 80% was onshore wind. Europe currently has a gross wind energy capacity of 220 GW.

But Europe is not installing enough new wind to deliver the Green Deal and climate neutrality: the EU is set to install 15 GW per year over the next 5 years – it requires 27 GW per year to deliver 55% emissions reductions by 2030. Permitting remains the biggest concern. The energy-intensive industries which plan to decarbonize their activities are concerned.

WindEurope statistics

WindEurope released statistics on wind power in Europe in 2020. In 2020 Europe installed 14.7 GW of new wind farms. This was 19% smaller than was predicted before COVID. 80% of the additional power was onshore wind. The Netherlands has developed the most (2 GW, mainly offshore) followed by Germany, Norway, Spain and France. The EU27 accounted for 10.5 GW of the new capacity.

WindEurope expects Europe to develop 105 GW of new wind farms over the next 5 years, more than 70% of which will be onshore. But this is well behind the speed expected to deliver the Green Deal and climate neutrality. The EU27 is set to install just 15 GW per year of new wind over 2021-25, although it wants to build 18 GW per year over 2021-30 to meet the current EU renewables goal for 2030 and 27 GW per year to meet the higher environment target of 55%.

Permit issues

Permitting is the biggest challenge. Permitting laws and regulations are so complicated, and governments do not hire enough staff at all levels to handle permit applications. The consequence is because it takes too long to secure approvals for construction developments, that authorisation decisions are contested in court and that developers are prevented from undertaking new projects because of the uncertainties and costs involved. Governments need to take decisive steps to resolve this issue.

Meanwhile, the number of older wind turbines approaching the end of their service life is growing. In 2020 Europe decommissioned 388 MW of wind power. Many decommissioned wind farms are being repowered, but its not enough. Obstacles to repowering resulted in Austria having a smaller wind capacity at the end of 2020 than it had at the beginning of the year. In the next five years, 38 GW of wind farms will hit 20 years of service and will require a decision on their future: repowering, life-long extension or complete decommissioning.

Germany, Poland, France…

Germany, which has long been the driver of wind power in Europe, only installed 1,65 GW of wind farms last year, the lowest in a decade. Many of the wind auctions have been undersubscribed. Permitting was the biggest concern, but the number of new wind farm licenses also rose last year. This indicates that recovery is on the way, but Germany remains a long way from what it wants to build to reach its renewables goals. More encouragingly, Poland has installed a large amount of new onshore wind and is now committing to a big build-up of offshore wind. France has seen more gradual growth of onshore wind and will continue to set up the first commercial offshore wind farms in the coming years.