2015 is record-breaking year for Europe's offshore wind industry

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4 August 2015

LONDON: The offshore wind sector is having the biggest year on record in Europe, with the grid’s capacity tripling when compared to this time a year ago.

A total of 584 electricity-generating turbines were connected across the Netherlands, the UK and Germany in the first half of 2015, the European Wind Energy Association (EWEA) states.

These turbines added 2.3 gigawatts (GW) to a network that previously already produced 8.1 GW of electricity from 82 wind farms and 11 countries.

A GREENER EU

According to the EWEA, growth rates are expected to remain relatively unchanged over the next 12-18 months as a result of confident investment cycles for projects under construction in Europe. If every build in the pipeline were to reach maturity, it would require the mobilization of more than €10 billion (US$10.95 billion) in financing.

“To ensure healthy growth in the coming years, and to guarantee offshore wind energy plays its role in meeting the EU’s competitiveness, security and de-carbonization objectives, the industry needs long-term visibility,” said Kristian Ruby, EWEA Chief Policy Officer.

“It is also critical that member states meet renewable energy commitments toward the end of this decade and set out a clear game plan to meet Europe’s 2030 targets.”

STRONG WINDS

Despite the great capabilities of offshore wind projects, they still suffer from expensive maintenance schemes and the need for long-distance connection cables to ensure reliable energy – although costs are coming down.

Such developments however are driving a need for alternative energy storage projects, such as compressed air energy storage (CAES). Recently, the European Union agreed to provide €6.5 million (US$7.1 million) to oversee the construction of a project of this type in Northern Ireland. The facility would capture and store energy in the form of compressed air before diverting power to electricity grids as needed. 

But while clean tech costs and efficiencies continue to improve, policy changes in Europe do not always reflect this. For example while the UK government is continuing to develop offshore wind, it recently announced the decision to cut support for biomass and solar energy projects and put an end to subsidized onshore wind farms come 2016.

CLEAN BUSINESS

But while policy can move slowly, the private sector is accelerating its support for clean energy. Leading companies in Europe are increasingly demonstrating that renewable power is good for business and should be a priority for governments taking climate action.

This was the message iterated by senior business executives and energy experts at the FIA Formula E ePrix in London in June.

The companies gathered at the race are all partners of RE100, the global initiative led by The Climate Group in partnership with CDP to engage, showcase and support the world’s most influential companies committed to using 100% renewable power.

Speaking during the event, Adam Elman, Head of Global Plan A Delivery, Marks & Spencer, said: "Through our sustainability programme, Plan A, we're working hard to cut our impacts and already directly source 100% renewable electricity in the UK and ROI. This includes electricity produced from the UK's largest single roof mounted solar array on our Castle Donington distribution centre. Being part of RE100 gives us an opportunity to share what we have learned and encourage other businesses to switch to renewable energy."

Phil Levermore, Chairman of The Climate Group added: “We need to secure a strong agreement at the climate talks in Paris later this year, but even if we do, it won’t kick in till 2020 – which leaves us with a gap. This is an opportunity for business to show real leadership on climate by joining RE100. With more than half the world’s electricity being used by the industrial and commercial sectors, this is our chance to shift the global energy market in favour of renewable power – helping us transition to a prosperous, low carbon future.”

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By Kayla Matthews

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