London, UK [Renewable Energy World Magazine] Just like sports fans gathering for a big game, a major industry event goes with a swing when those attending feel like they are backing a team that is on the way up. When the wind power community gathers at EWEC 2010 in Warsaw it will do so against a background of growth and momentum, albeit knowing that some tough challenges lie ahead.
One of the key events in the renewable energy calendar, EWEC will provide visitors to the Polish capital with a blend of the big issues and the fine detail of the wind industry.
The event’s conference will look at issues as diverse as the supply chain, offshore safety, global markets and strategies to increase social acceptance, along with sessions on the latest product and technical innovations and developments.
Major figures invited to speak at EWEC include Xabier Viteri, CEO of Iberdrola, Waldemar Pawlak, the deputy prime minister of Poland, and minsters with wind energy-related portfolios from the UK, Belgium, Spain, Bulgaria, Romania and Turkey.
The four-day event, which begins on 20 April 2010, will also be the venue for a major exhibition bringing together businesses with a stake in the wind power market, from major OEMs to small specialist suppliers.
Reasons for visitors to feel like they are part of an industry that is going in the right direction are not hard to find. Latest statistics from European wind body EWEA, which organises EWEC, show 10.1 GW of wind power capacity was installed across the EU last year, almost a quarter up on 2008’s installation level. Even though the vast majority of that figure, some 9.6 GW, came from onshore wind, the contribution from offshore was 56% higher than in 2008. Its contribution is expected to grow rapidly over the next few years as the focus moves onto the huge offshore projects planned by the UK in particular.
One statistic will give EWEC’s visitors particular cause for satisfaction. For the second year in a row, wind was the single biggest source of new capacity of any electricity generation technology in the EU and its share of new installations grew slightly to 39%.
According to EWEA CEO Christian Kjaer, this all added up to a ‘remarkable result in a difficult year.’ EWEA claimed the figures show that wind, and renewables in general, are delivering the twin benefits of new industrial activity and reduced carbon emissions to the people of Europe.
On a national level, Spain led the pack when it came to newly-installed capacity, accounting for a shade under a quarter of the EU total at 2.5 GW. It was followed by Germany, which saw 1.9 GW added while France, Italy and the UK all increased their wind contribution by about 1.1 GW each.
The cumulative totals now in place in Spain and Germany of 19.1 GW and 25.7 GW respectively, confirmed the overwhelming dominance of the two nations in Europe’s wind power league. The pair now account for more than half of the 76 GW of wind power in place across the continent.
Despite the impressive statistics, the question on the lips of many at EWEC 2010 will be, ‘can it last?’ Many of the projects that came to fruition last year were conceived in a very different financial and commercial climate to the one Europe faces now.
While celebrating wind’s 2009 strong performance, Kjaer’s assessment of the likely growth in 2010 was more cautious. While optimistic about wind’s medium term prospects, he noted that ‘project finance is still tight, and it is clear that more orders must be announced in the coming months for the sector to repeat the 10 GW installed this year.’
Kjaer expands on this in an interview for Renewable Energy World’s Big Question feature which also includes the analysis of other leading wind power commentators. ‘If the economic crisis continues, the reduction in power demand will start to impact wind energy simply because of lower demand for new power plants. Nevertheless, the medium and long-term outlook remains very healthy, as political momentum is building towards a low carbon economy’, comments Kjaer.
Like other renewables technologies in Europe, wind has benefitted from the aggressive targets set by the EU and its headline goal of a Europe-wide 20% contribution from renewable energy by 2020.
Hard on the heels of its wind installation statistics, EWEA unveiled figures that it claimed show the continent is on course to meet those objectives.
The organisation studied the Forecast Documents submitted by the EU’s member states last month in which they update Brussels on whether they will meet or exceed their individual national targets and so have ‘spare’ renewables production that could potentially be transferred to other nations.
According to EWEA’s analysis of the forecasts, 21 EU members will meet their targets and, of those, eight expect to beat them. Spain, for example, believes it will achieve a share of 22.7% for renewables, almost 3% higher than its target.
Germany is predicting a less dramatic 0.7% excess while Estonia, Greece, Ireland, Poland, Slovakia and Sweden are the other nations expecting to deliver target-busting shares by 2010.
At the other end of the spectrum, six states do not currently expect to be able to meet their targets through domestic renewable generation initiatives; Belgium, Italy, Luxembourg, Malta, Bulgaria and Denmark.
EWEA interpreted the Forecast Documents as a sign of progress since 2008, when it said many European nations were pessimistic about meeting the goals. ‘Europe has witnessed a sea-change since the 2009 Renewable Energy Directive was agreed’, claimed Justin Wilkes, EWEA policy director.
Despite the general optimism engendered by analysis of the submissions, it is clear that the forecasts are, just like their counterparts in weather prediction, subject to unforeseen events.
The UK’s submission, for example, makes it clear that while meeting its 15% target by 2020 is within its forecast range ‘there is, as with any forecast, a degree of uncertainty both in predicting levels of renewable energy deployment and in estimating overall energy consumption.’
The UK document added: ‘Energy demand forecasts are constantly under review and will be affected by many factors that are difficult to predict, including changes to gross domestic production, weather conditions, peoples’ behaviour and take-up of energy efficiency measures’. In other words, the famous ‘known unknowns’ immortalised by former US defence secretary Donald Rumsfeld.
— Andrew Lee