Wind Energy Growth in Europe Seen Slower After Policy Changes

Europe’s wind power industry will grow substantially slower than anticipated over the next 15 years because changes to the region’s climate and energy policies have unsettled investors, an industry group said.

The European Wind Energy Association (EWEA) slashed by 20 percent its forecast for the industry’s capacity to generate electricity in 2030. It estimated Europe will have 320 GW of wind power installed by then, down from its former estimate of 400 GW. Turbines will meet 25 percent of the continent’s electricity demand instead of the 30 percent expected before.

The findings in a report issued on Sept. 15 follow a European Union (EU) decision to reform its emissions-trading system, overhaul the electricity market and establish a new target for renewables. Policy makers also are placing a greater emphasis on energy security, which may undercut some of their zeal to reach targets on reducing greenhouse gases.

The impact of the policy changes won’t be known for years in some cases, reducing the visibility investors have over the scale of support the the technology will enjoy.

“Long-term visibility and stable frameworks remain crucial for wind energy deployment," the report said. "The lack of such stability would mean that Europe will not tap wind energy’s full potential as it has been witnessed in stalled growth of certain emerging markets."

The European Wind Energy Association projects that the EU’s wind energy industry’s installations will be worth 474 billion euros ($534 billion) by 2030, and that it will provide 334,000 direct and indirect jobs.

“Our forecasts are still optimistic,” Oliver Joy, a spokesman for EWEA, said. “We expect Europe to more than double the current installed capacity of wind energy by 2030.”

The forecasts are broadly in line with what the IEA and European Commission expect, Joy said. The group has also taken into account the prolonged economic downturn in Europe and its effect on power demand and wholesale electricity prices.

The slow recovery has held back investment plans, new orders and the financial health of existing wind assets, EWEA said.

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