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Expansion of renewables, storage, interconnectors key to deliver EU’s Green Deal

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BRUSSELS – Europe is not building enough new wind farms to deliver the EU’s Green Deal goal, WindEurope CEO Giles Dickson told New Europe on 18 February. “Europe now gets 15% of its electricity from wind but is not building enough to deliver the Green Deal,” he said in an interview on the sidelines of the emPOWER Energy Transition Summit in Brussels.

Europe installed 15.4 GW of new wind energy in 2019. Three quarters of this was onshore wind, 11.8 GW, new offshore wind was 3.6 GW. Europe now has 205 GW of wind energy. And it accounted for 15% of all electricity consumption in Europe last year.

“We only built 15 GW of new capacity last year. We need to be building at this stage somewhere between 20 and 30 GW last year and this number needs to increase as we go towards 2050. So, we have 200 GW capacity in Europe. We need over 1,000 GW by 2050. Adding only 15 GW a year does not get you there, especially when you factor in that nearly all the 200 GW, we have today we will not have in 2050 because the lifetime of a windfarm is 25-30 years,” Dickson warned.

Organised by SolarPower Europe, SmartEn, WindEurope, and the Renewables Grid Initiative, emPOWER focused on the European Green Deal, showcasing innovative solutions to deliver on climate targets and highlighting the path towards a 100% renewables-based energy system.

The WindEurope CEO told New Europe that energy storage becomes key when Europe gets to 60% variable renewables in electricity. “Today we are 20 percent. Storage is already playing an important role. It’s helping us to balance the electricity system, frequency control, voltage control,” he said. Dickson reminded that new wind farms are often built with a small 1 MG battery unit inside the wind farm that can help to balance the output for frequency and voltage control. “But we’re going to need much more than that when we get to 60 percent penetration of variable renewables,” he added.

“The other technologies that are crucial already are demand response, balancing the variable supply that we bring into the system with more variable demand and giving people incentives both industry and individual consumers to focus their consumption at times when prices are lowest because there is the most renewables in the system,” Dickson explained.

He also stressed that energy interconnectors are crucial. “The wind is always blowing somewhere in Europe. We average 15 percent over the year. Yesterday we were 30 percent. Somedays we are 5 percent. But even when are 5 percent the wind is blowing somewhere and you just got to transmit it where there is demand. So, interconnectors between countries are crucial,” Dickson said.

He brought up Spain as an example as the country generates a lot of wind energy and needs to be able to export it to France but the interconnector between Spain and France is not yet as large as it needs to be. Europe has a target that we should have interconnector capacity between the national markets equivalent to 15% of the total power generation capacity in Europe, Dickson said, adding that power generation is only at 8% today.

Turning to Ursula von der Leyen’s Green Deal, Dickson said the European Commission President’s signature proposal would help wind and power generation in Europe. The Green Deal, first of all, aims to make the EU Member States climate neutral by 2050, he said. “So, we all know what we working towards and it’s essential a world where renewables dominate energy supply, not just electricity but energy supply. We are having a crucial share of electricity in the energy mix up from the paltry 24 percent today to at least 50 percent,” he said. And then the Commission as the next stage of the Green Deal planned to increase the 2030 greenhouse gas emission reduction target from today’s level of 40 percent reduction on 1990 to 50 to 55 percent reduction. On back of that they then envision raising the 2030 renewable energy target from 32 percent where it is today to a significantly higher number,” Dickson said, adding: “So that will give us the policy ambition and the regulatory frameworks that we need to drive the expansion of renewables that the Commission wants by 2050.”

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Co-founder / Director of Energy & Climate Policy and Security at NE Global Media

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