European wind power draws record investment

Europe received a record total of €27.5 billion of new investments in wind power in 2016, adding 12.5 gigawatts (GW) of new power capacity, according to a new report issued by industry body WindEurope.

According to the newly published figures, wind energy projects accounted for 51 per cent of all new power installations across the 28 member states of the European Union last year, producing 10,923 megawatts (MW) of onshore wind energy and 1,567MW of offshore energy.

This data reportedly brings Europe's overall wind capacity to 153.7GW, which helped wind energy overtake coal as the second-largest form of power generation in Europe, behind nuclear power.

The majority of the new wind power projects were installed in Germany, where the country's 'Energiewende' commitment to ultimately replacing nuclear power with clean energy led to it taking responsibility for 44 per cent of the EUs total new wind power investment in 2016.

Despite Germany's successful year, five other member states also boosted their yearly figures, including France, the Netherlands, Finland, Ireland and Lithuania. Overall, renewable energy accounted for 86 per cent of new power plant installations in the EU in 2016, making up 21.1GW of a total of 24.5GW of new plants.

According to the report, offshore wind investments have also increased significantly year on year, rising by 39 per cent to €18.2 billion, while onshore investments fell buy 29 per cent to €9.3 billion. Combined, on and offshore wind investments reached a record total of €27.5 billion in 2016.

<b>The rise of wind energy</b>

Commenting on the latest wind investment figures, Giles Dickson, chief executive officer of WindEurope, suggested that they signalled an increase in the mainstream use of wind energy as part of Europe's essential electricity supply.

According to Mr Dickson, the data demonstrates that wind energy is now a significant industry, providing 330,000 jobs for European workers and creating billions of euros in exports across the continent.

However, despite the success of wind installations, WindEurope's CEO added that government's across Europe are failing to create the same clear and ambitious targets and policies for renewable energy beyond 2020.

"With all the talk about the transition to low-carbon, things should be looking good long-term for the wind industry in Europe. But they’re not," he said. "The transition from feed-in tariffs to auctions has been less smooth than we hoped. We still have dysfunctional electricity markets that are not fit for renewables. And we’re lacking long-term price signals to support investment."

To address this problem, Mr Dickson has suggested that EU members should follow the example of Germany and focus on creating forward-thinking policies that focus on long-term increases in wind investment.

He suggests that The Clean Energy Package should be the blueprint for this long-term investment plan, and should remain the focus of the Council and the European Parliament.

Designed to ensure the European Union remains competitive in the clean energy market, the Clean Energy Package commits to cutting CO2 emissions by at least 40 per cent by 2030, while ensuring investment in the modernisation of the EU's economy.

According to the European Commission, the proposal's three main goals include putting energy efficiency first, achieving goal leadership in the renewable energy market and providing customers with a fairer deal.

Commenting on the package, Vice-President for Energy Union Maroš Šefčovič said: "Today's package will boost the clean energy transition by modernising our economy. Having led global climate action in recent years, Europe is now showing example by creating the conditions for sustainable jobs, growth and investment."

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