Wind Energy in The European Union

ecwe.jpgIn 2016, the European Union (EU) connected 12.5 GW of new wind energy capacity—a decrease of 3% compared to 2015. Of the new capacity, land-based installations accounted for 10.9 GW and 1.57 GW offshore. The total cumulative wind capacity was 154 GW at the end of 2016, a growth of 8%. Wind power generated almost 300 TWh in 2016, covering 10.4% of the EU’s electricity demand.

The total European Commission (EC) funding specifically dedicated to wind energy technology increased to 65 million EUR (68 million USD) in 2016. Offshore technology receives the highest share of funding, followed by new turbine materials and components, while funding for grid integration and resource assessment is decreasing.

National Objectives

The Renewable Energy Directive is the main policy driver for wind energy in the EU. This directive established the overall legal framework for the production and promotion of energy from renewable sources in the EU. It requires the EU to fulfil at least 20% of its total energy needs with renewables by 2020.

This binding target must be achieved through individual national targets and technology-specific targets. In its proposal for a revised Renewable Energy Directive, the EC proposes a target of at least 27% renewables in the final energy consumption by 2030.

Renewable Energy Targets

The EU target is a 20% share of renewable energy in final energy consumption by 2020. All EU countries have adopted national renewable energy action plans (NREAPs), which include specific targets for wind energy.

Within the 28 EU member states, ten are already above their general 2020 RES targets. According to the EC energy model PRIMES, 12 other countries are on track to reach their targets, but need to continue their current efforts to reach their RES targets by 2020. The remaining six EU Member States—Hungary, Ireland, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, and Slovenia—are not on track for their 2020 RES target and must increase their action to meet their targets.

By the end of 2016, the total installed wind power capacity in the EU was 153.7 GW, 72% of the 2020 target. When looking at the NREAP expectations for wind energy for 2016, the EU met 99% of the 2016 target.

Policies Supporting Development

Current state aid guidelines for environmental protection and energy encourage EU member states to shift their wind energy regulatory framework toward schemes that will ensure higher market compatibility.

In 2016, the most common support schemes for land-based wind were feed-in tariffs (FITs), followed by feed-in premiums. In offshore wind energy, new projects were supported by feed-in premiums, followed by tradable green certificates. Subsidies like feed-in tariffs grant a high level of security to investors but neglect market signals which is the basis for higher shares of wind energy in the energy system. EU member states are increasingly introducing competitive tender-based support schemes. These schemes are currently being applied in nine EU member states for land-based wind and seven member states for offshore wind.

Some EU member states have planned regulatory changes to become effective in 2017; Germany and Hungary are implementing a feed-in premium tender-based support scheme, and new market-based frameworks are under development in Finland, Ireland, Lithuania, and Slovakia.