Wind Energy in The European Union

ecwe.jpgThe Renewable Energy Directive is the main policy driver for wind energy in the European Union (EU) to 2020, and H2020 is the main instrument to support R&D at the EU level.

In 2017, the EU connected 15.6 GW of new wind energy capacity—an increase of 25% compared to 2016. Of the new capacity, land-based installations accounted for 12.4 GW and offshore installations accounted for 3.2 GW. The total cumulative wind capacity grew 9.7% during the year, reaching 168.7 GW by the end of 2017. Wind power generated almost 336 TWh in 2017, covering 11.6% of the EU’s electricity demand.

Although the European Commission (EC) decreased its total funding specifically dedicated to wind energy R&D to 33 million EUR (40 million USD) in 2017, it increased its support for storage and the development of a flexible energy system, which is important for large scale wind energy penetration.

To read more about the European Commission's wind energy sector, please visit their chapter in the IEA Wind TCP 2017 Annual Report.

National Targets

The Renewable Energy Directive established the overall legal framework for the production and promotion of renewable energy sources (RES). It set a target of 20% share of renewable energy in final energy consumption by 2020. The legislation required all EU countries to adopt national renewable energy action plans (NREAPs), which include specific targets for wind energy.

Within the 28 EU member states, ten countries were above their general 2020 RES targets at the end of 2015. According to the EC energy model PRIMES, 16 other states are on track to reach their targets but will need to continue their current efforts to reach them by 2020. The remaining three EU member states—France, Luxembourg, and the Netherlands—must increase their action to meet their RES targets.

Progress & Operational Details

During 2017, 15.6 GW of new wind power capacity was installed and grid-connected in the EU, 25% more than in 2016. Land-based installations accounted for 12,484 MW, while offshore installations made up 3,154 MW. Cumulatively, 168.7 GW are now installed in the EU (a growth of 9.7% over 2016). By the end of 2017, the total installed wind power capacity in the EU was 79% of the 2020 target.

In 2017, wind-generated electricity met 11.6% of the EU-28’s total electricity demand. Germany is the EU country with the largest installed capacity (56.1 GW), followed by Spain (23.2 GW), the UK (18.9 GW), France (13.8 GW), and Italy (9.5 GW). Four other EU countries (Sweden, Poland, Denmark, and Portugal) have more than 5 GW installed. Seven additional EU countries have over 1 GW of installed capacity: the Netherlands, Ireland, Romania, Belgium, Austria, Greece, and Finland.

National R,D&D Priorities & Budget

Horizon 2020 (H2020) is the main funding instrument for energy research and development at the EU level, with a budget of about 6.0 billion EUR (7.2 billion USD). In 2017, 17 projects started with total funding of about 28 million EUR (34 million USD).

The EU’s R,D&D priorities include all aspects related to reducing wind energy costs, such as:
  • New turbine materials and components
  • Resource assessment
  • Grid integration
  • Offshore technology
  • Logistics, assembly, testing, and installation
  • Maintenance and condition-monitoring systems