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Putin Cannot Turn Off Europe’s Wind Energy, Says EWEA Chief

The President of the European Wind Energy Association (EWEA) has told delegates at its annual conference that the threat to Europe’s energy security can be neutered by investment in the EU’s wind energy sector. He told his audience, “Mr Putin cannot turn off the tap that supplies our wind, our free indigenous fuel.”

Andrew Garrad, making the keynote speech at the event in Barcelona this week, also pointed out with reference to the recent devastation of the Philippines, the industry’s value in combatting climate change.

He was particularly keen to emphasise how present European governmental discomfort could have been alleviated if the bloc had been more aggressive in pursuing its renewable power potential instead of continuing to import fossil fuels from its eastern neighbour.

“Mr Putin can and perhaps will turn off the tap that supplies Western Europe with oil and gas but even Mr Putin bare chested, or fully clothed cannot turn off the tap that supplies our wind, our free indigenous fuel. It seems however that some politicians would rather line Mr Putin’s pockets than agree an ambitious target for renewables for 2030.”

The EWEA chief (pictured above) said that Spain provided an example of the potential for wind power to contribute effectively to national power generation but also said the country’s complete about turn in attitude to the energy showed how vulnerable the wind sector is to politics.

Mr Garrad provided two statistics to back up his contention.

“In 2013, 21.1 percent of Spain’s electricity was produced by the wind. That in itself, when you think wind energy in Spain only started in earnest about 15 years ago, is remarkable. 21.1 percent is produced by a technology that is only 15 years old," he said. "But that isn’t the most important fact. The most important fact is that in 2013 more electricity was produced by the wind in Spain than by any other source. It’s a fantastic statement to be able to make.”

He continued: "We should celebrate that enormous success, but there is no Spanish minister sitting in the audience today. How much will be installed in 2014? I understand that number may even be negative. That tells you that energy is political and renewable energy is particularly political and especially sensitive to political changes. Spain is an extreme example of what’s happened in Europe over the last few years, something that’s happened in other EU countries if not to the same extreme.”

Mr Garrad contrasted the attitude change in Spanish governance by pointing to the acute need the wind sector can fulfil in tackling climate change, in light of what happened in the Philippines in December, before drawing attention to another statistic, of particular interest to a European audience.

“Today the physical crisis in the Philippines has been eclipsed by a political crisis much closer to home. The situation in the Crimea now is a wake-up call to all of us — it demonstrates the vulnerability of our fossil fuel supply and identifies another problem whose solution at least in part lies with our industry.”

“The second statistic is that every one of you, if you live within the European Union pays 2 euros a day to pay for imports of fossil fuel from outside the European Union. If you aggregate that that’s roughly a billion euros every day we are paying for outside fuels. Our industry brings energy independence and huge savings.”

Mr Garrad said the industry had also fallen victim to what he called "short term political opportunism" by virtue of the fact that the natural time horizons for political governance and for energy planning are hopelessly mismatched. He also took aim at the lack of ambition shown by the European Commission in its recent document on renewable energy targets and said there was a growing recognition by Europeans of the value of domestic energy within EU boundaries.

“We, as an industry, have demonstrated that we can deliver energy in substantial and significant qualities. We can deliver on the same level as our so called conventional competition, the Spanish 2013 example is just one example of that. We are no longer on the fringes of energy eccentricity."

In his concluding comments the EWEA president warned the EU’s leadership not to persist in indulging fossil fuel’s influence on the European power mix, saying, “we are in danger of locking ourselves into a fossil future if we don’t act now.”

This sentiment was shared by Conference chair Hans-Peter Kettwig, the Managing Director of Enercon, who called on EU heads of state to deliver an ambitious target for renewables when the document comes before them in a fortnight’s time. Mr Kettwig held up the example of Portugal, whose smart approach to the technology had seen the country save around EUR750m through maintaining its renewables impetus instead of using imported energy.

This article was originally published on Power Engineering International and was republished with permission. 

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