European Wind Calls for EU Support to Maintain Lead

Europe is already the strongest market for wind power but the industry’s European-wide trade association isn’t sure it can hold that position without increased support from the EU in a variety of forms.

The European Wind Energy Association (EWEA) called for an increase in wind energy R&D spending under the EU’s 7th Framework Programme for research and development (FP7), and the establishment of a Wind Energy Technology Platform in order to continue its track record of cost reductions and maintain European technology leadership in wind energy. “European research efforts should be focused on those technologies where Europe is strong,” said Corin Millais CEO of EWEA. “R&D is a crucial factor in reaching full cost competitiveness with other power sources, and goes hand-in-hand with reaping further economies of scale through increased market volumes. “Europe is in pole position with wind energy technology, but there is a risk that we may fall behind unless significant support to long-term and short-term R&D is included in the forthcoming European research programme FP7.” The cost of generating wind power has decreased by some 80 percent since the first modern wind turbines were installed in the beginning of the 1980s. The sector estimates that some 40 percent of the cost reductions achieved over the past two decades can be attributed to improved technology through R&D. Scale economies in production, a function of market volume, has been the other large contributor. At present, the European wind industry leads the world with an 83 percent world market share. Long-term commitment from EU and national R&D programs, combined with close cooperation between industry and research institutions, has been a principal contributor to Europe’s dominant position in wind turbine technology and the wind power industry R&D in general. However, European leadership in wind energy is challenged by foreign competitors getting increasingly aware of the substantial growth potential of the sector, said EWEA. Support for wind energy R&D under the current EU framework program, FP6, was severely restricted, and funding for long-term research was initially completely removed. “The wind sector is a growing success story, but we have only seen the tip of the iceberg. Europe is in the lead and we should make sure that we stay ahead of the pack,” Millais said. “A wind energy technology platform would be a central tool to secure this.” Specifically, the European wind sector calls for: The establishment of a Wind Energy Technology Platform that would address both research and development as well as policy issues related to market development, such as overcoming grid barriers and administrative barriers in order to reap further economies of scale and bring down costs. The industry requests the assistance of the European Commission as facilitator in this process. Following dramatically reduced funding for wind energy R&D under FP6, EWEA calls for wind energy to be reinstated as a priority research area under FP7 within a new “Renewable Energy Systems” budget line, replacing the existing “Sustainable Energy Systems” chapter, which includes so-called “clean coal technologies and hydrogen and absorb large parts of the renewable energy R&D funding. To increase transparency, the technologies included in a new “Renewable Energy Systems” budget line should follow the definition of renewables as stated in the Renewables Directive. Within this reformed chapter, in order to ensure that adequate funding is dedicated to European wind energy R&D, EWEA calls for the establishment of a separate Chapter for Wind Energy.
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