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


In 2020, 14.7 GW of new wind turbines were installed in Europe, 80 percent of which were onshore. The combined capacity of wind turbines currently operating in Europe is 220 GW. However, these results are too low to implement the European Green Deal and become a climate-neutral continent. It is planned to install 15 GW of new power plants annually in the European Union (EU) over the next five years. However, in order to reduce emissions by 55 percent by 2030, it is necessary to install new turbines with a capacity of 27 GW. Complicated permitting remains the main reason for the slow development of wind energy.

According to statistics published by WindEurope, the total capacity of wind parks built in Europe in 2020 is 14.7 GW. This is 19 percent less than planned before the COVID-19 pandemic and 6 percent less than in 2019. 80 percent of new wind turbines were installed onshore. Most new wind turbines were installed in the Netherlands (2 GW, most of them – offshore), Germany, Norway, Spain and France. EU countries without the United Kingdom (EU 27) have installed 10.5 GW of new capacity.

In 2020, wind turbines generated 16 percent of Europe’s electricity consumption. Germany and the United Kingdom account for 27 percent each, Spain amounts for 22 percent and Denmark amounts for 48 percent.

WindEurope expects new wind turbines to be installed in Europe over the next five years with a combined capacity of 105 GW, 70 percent of which should be onshore wind turbines. However, these figures are far too small to implement the Green Deal.

According to Giles Dickson, head of WindEurope, wind turbines generate 16 percent of electricity consumed in Europe, but too few wind turbines are being built to meet the EU’s climate change and energy goals. The main challenge is a complex and time-consuming permitting process. According to Dickson, responsibility for it should be borne by the authorities. If the permitting procedure does not improve, the chances of implementing the European Green Deal will be jeopardized.

Permitting rules and procedures are too complex and the authorities at all levels do not recruit enough people to carry out the permitting process efficiently. It takes too long to get a permit for a new project, also taking into consideration that permitting decisions are often challenged in the courts. The risks and costs associated with these factors discourage builders from implementing new projects. According to WindEurope, European governments should take urgent action to address these issues.

Interestingly, Germany, which has long been a wind power engine in Europe, installed wind turbines with a capacity of only 1.65 GW last year, which is the lowest result in a decade. Although the main obstacle was the issuance of permits, the number of new permits issued in Germany has increased compared to last year. This means that the wind energy sector in Germany is potentially recovering, but the country is still far from meeting its renewable energy targets. Last year, Poland showed excellent results, not only installing many new wind turbines, but also committing itself to substantially developing offshore wind energy. France continues to successfully develop onshore wind energy, and the installation of the first offshore wind parks will begin in the country in the upcoming years.