Renewable energy deployments across Europe reached a record high. Eighty-six percent of all new power connected to the European grid in 2016 came from renewable resources. These resources include wind, solar, biomass and hydro.
This is the highest percentage recorded to date. The previous record high was in 2014, when 79 percent of new power in Europe came from renewable energy.
These numbers are a great credit to the steps individual countries are taking to lessen their dependence on fossil fuels. However, renewable energy companies are afraid momentum will slow as the 2020 European Union’s (EU’s) renewable energy target ends.
Wind: The Biggest Growth Segment in Renewable Energy
In 2016, wind surpassed coal in power capacity throughout the EU. However, despite this fact, coal still meets more energy demand because of wind’s production inconsistency. Gas holds the leading capacity slot.
Windfarm companies are hopeful that with the goal to close all of Britain’s coal plants by 2025, wind systems will fulfill a greater market share. As it stands now, wind has the installed power generation capacity of 153.7GW, which only accounts for 17 percent of Europe’s total generation capacity. (source)
Despite the growing capacity of wind energy each year, the industry still worries about the future of windfarms. Giles Dickson, chief executive of WindEurope, stated:
“The installation numbers for now look OK, and the investment number is very good. But, on the longer term outlook, only seven out of the EU’s 28 countries have clear policies and volumes [for wind power] in place for the period beyond 2020. We today see less political and policy ambition for renewables than we did five or even three years ago, across the member states.”
Leaders in Renewable Energy
Germany was the biggest installer of wind power in 2016. They installed 44 percent of new capacity. In addition, France, the Netherlands, Finland, Ireland and Lithuania all set new installation records.
The Germini windfarm, off the Nederlands’ coast, is expected to be completed at some point in 2017. It will become the world’s second largest offshore windfarm. Germany’s GODE Wind 1 and 2, followed by the Netherlands’ Westermeer project, hold the third and fourth capacity slots.
Spain, Portugal, Italy and Greece had initially spearheaded the renewable energy initiative, but, sadly, they now only house a small fraction of the total connected systems.
Poland also has become a disappointment to the overall renewables effort. Early in 2016, the country passed a law defining how close to buildings a wind system can be installed, and significantly raised property taxes on windfarms. This effectively shut down almost all Polish wind development projects.
The EU Renewable Energy Directive states:
- By 2020, a minimum of 20 percent of Europe’s total energy needs must be supplied by renewables.
- In addition, by 2020 a minimum of 10 percent of transport fuels must come from renewable sources.
- Looking further ahead, by 2030, renewable energy must supply 27 percent of the final energy consumption.
At this point, Europe is on tract to meet these expectations. Let’s hope that governments commit to reaching beyond these goals for the greater good of our planet.
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