How can we get fit for 55? No, we’re not talking about a godawful exercise regime for the early 50s involving kettlebells and protein shakes. Shudder!
This is about the 55% target the European Union has for cutting greenhouse gas emissions by 2030, from 1990 levels. It would be a vital milestone for the EU as it strives to be carbon neutral by 2050. This month, WindEurope and ETIP Wind published a report on how wind can be key for hitting both goals.
You can read the full report here
The report looked at why electrification is crucial in Europe’s decarbonisation journey. It said 75% of European energy demand would come from electricity by 2050, which would be a threefold increase on 25% at present. It added that “wind energy will become the no.1 source of electricity in Europe shortly after 2025 and by 2030 it will provide 25% of the EU’s electricity needs”.
But to do that, countries must take steps to unlock investment where the wind sector needs it. Wind may have come a long way, but there’s a huge amount still left to do.
The report argued that the European wind industry could take advantage of more of Europe's 33,000TWh wind potential if governments supported wind companies in key ways. These include enabling them to make advances in turbine technology; support with repowering ageing projects; support to commercialise floating wind technology that would “unlock 60% of Europe’s offshore wind resources”; and tougher ambitions on turbine recycling.
This support would go further than the days when governments handed out generous feed-in tariffs for new wind farms. Rather, the industry would look to government to provide more supporting infrastructure needed to enable them to invest in wind.
The report's policy recommendations for the EU came in five areas:
- Unlock a massive supply of competitive renewable energy: It said the EU should do this by helping governments simplify permitting for wind farms; ensure that EU state aid rules support Contracts for Difference and technology-specific auctions; and embed climate targets in spatial planning processes.
- Plan for and accelerate the buildout of infrastructure needed for a net-zero energy system: The EU should double the rate of grid investment; better integrate green hydrogen; and fix regulatory barriers offshore.
- Focus research and innovation funding on pioneering technologies: This includes digital O&M systems and robotics; improving grid technologies; supporting evolution in offshore wind, including with the use of floating wind technologies; and increasing the use of recyclable materials.
- Send a carbon price signal and adapt taxation to shift away from fossil fuel use: It should do this by aligning the emissions trading scheme with the EU’s new climate targets; and setting up carbon pricing mechanisms.
- Grow demand for renewable energy: It should do this with Guarantees of Origin to underpin growth of corporate PPAs; closing the cost gap between grey and green hydrogen; and new renewable goals for hard-to-abate sectors, including industry (which cause 31% of greenhouse gas emissions in the EU), transport (25%) and buildings.
The report said these could all contribute to a set of rules that encourages a step change in wind investment that is needed for Europe to decarbonise.
Updating the model
The overall message is that wind may not rely on direct financial support from governments, but there are still areas where support is needed if the industry is to move beyond current models. Hitting ambitious targets needs a plan.
For wind, this means putting in place rules that help companies develop projects using existing turbine technology, but also helping them adapt to innovations in technology that could overhaul their business models.
This includes the potential of floating wind to take offshore wind into waters deeper than 60 metres; the growth of greener fuels such as ammonia and e-kerosene; and the emergence of renewable hydrogen.
Wind may be growing up but it shows no signs of slowing down.