Europe can be role model for renewable energy at United Nations Climate Change Conference in Paris 2015

Posted by ewea on 06/05/14

By Thomas Becker, CEO of EWEA

The economic and political winds of change for Europe’s energy security are in full flow.

With Ukraine on the brink of civil war and an IPCC report calling on the world’s governments to invest in renewables immediately, Europe’s policymakers face a dilemma that cannot be solved with words alone.

Add to that a Heads of State summit in March that failed to deliver a complete verdict on 2030 climate and energy targets and this paints a picture of uncertainty in Europe, particularly in the short term.

One thing is clear however: investment in renewables is essential and ultimately inevitable.

Part of the answer to Europe’s energy independence, of how to spur economic growth, create jobs and protect the climate lies in the wind industry; But to achieve this, policymakers must set aside differences in favor of the common good for the region.

Investments in wind and other renewables will not wait and as the IPCC clearly laid out in its climate change mitigation report earlier this month; the longer we delay, the higher the financial and social cost to the taxpayer.

The wind industry, particularly onshore, offers proven and affordable technology to power business and consumers with renewable energy.

While the cheapest and least precarious route to dealing with global warming is to reduce reliance on fossil fuels, starting immediately with cuts to their subsidies over the coming decades.

The IPCC report stresses that removing the subsidy safety net for high polluting energies such as oil and coal could result in a 13% decline in global emissions by mid-century.

Subsidies for fossil fuels amount to $1.9 trillion a year, according to the International Monetary Fund; surely this is money that could be used to develop and support growing technologies with massive potential like offshore wind.

Now, Europe has an opportunity to take the lead and can be a global role model for renewable energy at the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Paris next year.

But first the European Commission must lay the groundwork for a transition away from fossil fuels by setting a nationally binding renewables target of at least 30% by 2030.

Such a target would create 570,000 more jobs at a time when many Europeans are out of work; it would slash gas imports by 26%, and avoid €260bn in fuel costs

And then there is the question of security; a vital one in the current political climate.

Critics love to paint wind energy as an expensive and unreliable technology but the real price comes from relying on Russian oligarchs and Arab sheikhs to keep our lights on at night.

Already, each European sends €2 a day to tycoons in Russia and the Middle East. Instead, why not let us invest in wind and other renewables – European energy sources which do not have to be imported, which will not run out, and in industries where Europe is a leading player.

The wind is not subject to Mr. Putin’s mood swings or instability in some of the world’s most volatile regions.

Today, renewables make up over 20% of EU electricity generation and can do far more.

It is clear that we are at a crossroads in Europe and policymakers at national level and in Brussels will have to choose a path.

Do we lock ourselves in to fossil fuels for the next 50 years, kowtowing to the demands of leaders in foreign lands; or do we allow Europeans to determine their own future, safe in the knowledge that the wind energy tap cannot be turned off?

I know which path I would take.

This post first appeared on

ETS backloading cautiously welcomed as first step towards reviving carbon market

Posted by ewea on 04/07/13
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On their second time around, European MEP’s yesterday voted in favour of ‘backloading’. This means that the number of permits to pollute released under the Emissions Trading System (ETS) will be temporarily reduced by 900 million tonnes of carbon. This will increase the cost of carbon to industry and create an incentive to pollute less. The vote will also “build confidence in the ETS” said Rémi Gruet, the European Wind Energy Association’s (EWEA) Senior Regulatory Affairs Advisor.

The cost of carbon to polluters recently slumped to an all-time low, threatening the relevance of the world’s biggest carbon market. Prices had lost more than 70% in the past four years. Worsened by the economic crisis, the over-supply of permits reached 2 billion metric tonnes in 2012, equal to the EU’s annual limit imposed on 12,000 power plants and factories.

Several interpretations of the vote were evident in the international media. Bloomberg, calling the over-supply of permits a “glut”, quoted a banker at Commerzbank AG in London who said “Markets are hoping on a fast-track decision to regain confidence in the EU emissions trading scheme. We would expect that prices are capped in the mid-term around 6 euros on the back of uncertainties on the European economy, supply from industrials and auctioning.” The price had slumped to a record low of 2.46 euros on April 17, the day after the EU Parliament rejected backloading on its first vote. Policymakers say a higher price is essential to encourage more greenhouse gas reductions across Europe’s industry, with the Guardian quoting a figure of prices above €20 per tonne “needed to give utilities sufficient incentive to make serious switches to lower carbon energy generation”.

Rémi Gruet of EWEA echoed this desire for a fast decision, saying that “It is crucial that the EU Member States now agree backloading as soon as possible”. Gruet added that “the European Commission should propose a 2030 Climate and Energy Package, with headline renewable and GHG reduction targets, without delay.”

Climate Action Network (CAN) Europe and WWF hailed the vote as the first step towards increasing overall EU climate action, which had been in jeopardy. Julia Michalak of CAN Europe said “Today the European Parliament used its second chance to get back-loading right. By approving back-loading and rejecting several dangerous loopholes that had been proposed as part of a compromise, they’ve paved the way for the necessary deep reform of the EU ETS. Member States must start to negotiate the final outcome as soon as possible – we have lost enough time already.”

CAN Europe and WWF published their 2014 edition of the Future Times to indicate what they foresee if Member States support the backloading amendment.

Others were not as positive on the vote. Greenpeace’s Joris den Blanken said: “The Parliament unexpectedly rejected a further weakening of the plan, but there is still not too much to celebrate. As soon as the suspended allowances are allowed to re-enter the system, the carbon market will be back to square one.” He said 2.2bn allowances must be cancelled before 2020 to restore the credibility of the ETS.

Global Wind Day photo competition winners announced

Posted by ewea on 19/06/13

To see the winning photos, click here to read this post on the EWEA blog.

Wind energy at work is the theme that united all winners of this year’s Global Wind Day photo competition. From a turbine tower being lowered into place to turbines set in agricultural backgrounds juxtaposed harmoniously with nature all around, this year’s photos show the beauty and the working reality of wind power.

“In 2005 during a family vacation in Ireland, I photographed my first wind turbine and something just went off in my head, like a lightbulb, that this is my calling,” overall winner Joan Sullivan from Canada said explaining her dedication to photographing wind energy. The winning photo was taken in Mont Louis, eastern Quebec. Sullivan climbed to the top of the middle tower section and took the photo as a crane lowered the top section down. “I hope that my photographs will contribute positively to the global dialogue about the inevitable transition from fossil fuels to renewable energy.”

In the Africa category, the winning photo depicts a young man polishing turbine parts with dedication. “I found it deeply encouraging to see the innovation and raw enthusiasm of everyone involved with this enterprising wind company in western Kenya,” photographer Tom Gilks said. “This particular turbine, photographed early in the construction phase, is going up on Global Wind Day [15 June] on an isolated island in Lake Victoria. I sense the project is going to have a great impact on the island community and I hope it will drive similar sustainable schemes on neighbouring islands,” Gilks said.

Marvin del Cid, winner of the Americas category, took his winning photo of an elegant group of flamingos with turbines gracing the background in the Jargua national park, in the Dominican Republic. “Delving into the lagoon to photograph birds in the wild and see how man can develop power generation technologies without altering ecosystems is rewarding, and makes us see that we can live with nature and not destroy it further,” Cid said.

In the Asia category, Sudipto Das captured a sunset behind turbines with irrigation taking place in the foreground. “Recently I travelled to Rajasthan and found how the installation of wind turbines changes the face of remote desert villages,” he said explaining his photo. Das said that power generated by the turbines is used to pump water which is then used for farming. “These barren desert areas now turn green and local farmers can cultivate mustard seeds which directly help to change the livelihoods of poor farmers living far below poverty level.”

For Patrick Finnegan, winner of the Australasia category, wind power can coexist with traditional farming practices and, to some land owners, wind power is “simply a new style of farming – a new crop.” The photo of a field of turbines and hay bales shows just that. “Here in the Australian outback we have cropping cattle and sheep grazing all working right alongside wind turbines farming the wind for electricity,” he said.

Mihalis Konstandinidis, winner of the Europe category, said he became dedicated to photographing renewable energy because “the contamination and destruction of our physical surroundings constitutes a major, acute, social and international problem that distresses me.”

His picture of a turbine casting a shadow on arid land was taken in Sidirokastro, Greece – an area that is now self-sufficient in energy thanks to wind power, he says. “The protection of the environment, or what is left of it, is in our hands,” Konstandinidis emphasised.

The 2013 photo competition was organised for Global Wind Day on 15 June – an international day to discover wind power. Find out more here.

Phase out fossil fuel subsidies and limit use of coal – IEA

Posted by ewea on 13/06/13

The world is not on track to reach its goal of limiting global temperature increase to 2°C, warned the International Energy Agency (IEA) on Monday.

Highlighting the need for intensive action in the energy sector before 2020, the IEA noted that the energy sector accounts for about two-thirds of global greenhouse gas emissions from burning fossil fuels.

“Climate change has quite frankly slipped to the back burner of policy priorities,” Marie van der Hoeven, IEA Executive Director said in a press release that accompanied the London launch of an IEA report, Redrawing the Energy-Climate Map. “But the problem is not going away – quite the opposite.”

“This report shows that the path we are currently on is more likely to result in a temperature increase of between 3.6 °C and 5.3 °C but also finds that much more can be done to tackle energy-sector emissions without jeopardising economic growth, an important concern for many governments,” van der Hoeven said.

In its “4-for-2 °C Scenario,” the IEA report examines four energy policies that can deliver significant emissions reductions by 2020, rely only on existing technologies and have already been adopted successfully in several countries.

The report says that limiting the construction and use of the least-efficient coal-fired power plants could deliver more than 20% of the emissions reduction and help curb local air pollution. “The share of power generation from renewables increases (from around 20% today to 27% in 2020), as does that from natural gas,” it adds.

It adds that “implementing a partial phase-out of fossil fuel consumption subsidies accounts for 12% of the reduction in emissions and supports efficiency efforts.”

Other measures include actions to halve methane (a potent greenhouse gas) and ,targeted energy efficiency measures in buildings, industry and transport.

The IEA report garnered much global media attention:

“The IEA has calculated that making clean energy investments sooner would be cheaper than leaving them until after 2020,” the Guardian story said. “About $1.5 trillion should be spent before 2020 to meet climate targets, it found, but if the investments are left until after 2020 it will take $5 trillion to achieve the same results.”

“The European Union needs to think of other ways to prevent new coal-fired power stations from being built because its carbon market won’t achieve that this decade,” the IEA said, according to a Bloomberg News article.

WWF calls for massive investment in renewables

Posted by ewea on 08/06/13

Government and financial institutions around the world must pledge to invest at least US$40 billion (€30.6 billion) in renewable energy over the next 12 months as a way of fighting climate change, according to a campaign launched this week by the environmental NGO the WWF.

“We are running out of time,” says Jim Leape, director general of WWF International, launching the campaign Seize Your Power. “We know that if we continue to rely on fossil fuels we will face a future of worsening air pollution and an increasingly inhospitable climate. It is now our collective responsibility to commit to the future we want. We call on political and financial decision-makers to seize their power to make the switch to clean and sustainable renewable energy and end the inertia of coal, oil and gas.”

Anyone and everyone can sign the pledge on the WWF’s website to encourage governments and financial institutions to put their money where their mouth is, and promise greater funds for wind, solar and water power. The campaign will run in 20 countries around the world and be targeted at public finance, pension funds and sovereign wealth funds.

According to Samantha Smith, leader of the WWF’s global climate and energy initiative: “The energy markets’ driving forces include speculation, institutional inertia, lack of accurate information, perverse incentives, but also huge economic and political interests”. She adds: “It’s time to reframe the debate and expose the real costs of fossil fuels and the real opportunity of the renewable energy sector. The call to action we’re launching today is an invitation to every decision maker to invest in the future we want – one that is powered by clean, renewable and sustainable energy”.

With world leaders meeting in the UK for the G8 summit later this month, WWF aims to keep the pressure on in the coming weeks joining EWEA in targeting this year’s summit with its Facebook app calling for an end to fossil fuels subsidies and a shift to renewable investment.

This shift is necessary for the environment, human health, energy security and the economy. Meanwhile, a recent report by the Health and Environment Alliance (HEAL) showed that coal-fired power stations cost the European Union up to €42.8 billion a year in health costs.

Regarding the continued investment by the EU in nuclear and fossil fuels, EWEA CEO Thomas Becker said: “keep in mind that what is cheap energy today will not necessarily remain cheap tomorrow. In the past, we have time and again underestimated the development of the oil price. Given that the European continent possesses no significant fossil energy reserves, and is already importing more than half its energy, it would be a high-risk game, both from an economic and from a security policy point of view, to base our long-term energy strategy on what is cheap here and now.”

No link between wind turbines and adverse health effects

Posted by ewea on 27/05/13


Belgium’s supreme health council (Conseil Supérieur de la Santé, CSS) – a scientific body which advises the government – has called for a “reflection” on the development of wind energy citing apparent health concerns.

The CSS would do well to note that an increasing body of evidence exists showing that there is no link between wind turbines and adverse health effects.

In 2010 the Australian Government National Health Medical Research Council concluded: “there are no direct pathological effects from wind farms and that any potential impact on humans can be minimised by following existing planning guidelines.” In January 2012 a study for the Massachusetts Department of Public Health said: “there is insufficient evidence that noise from wind turbines is directly…causing health problems or disease.”

There are also a number of reviews of independent research and evidence that all conclude that wind energy is not harmful to human health. Meanwhile there are many more studies, some of which have been reviewed on this blog here and here.

As Robert Hornung, President of the Canadian Wind Energy Association, put it: “wind has also been attacked by opponents on the grounds that it is harmful to human health. This is despite the fact that the balance of scientific evidence clearly shows that wind turbines do not adversely affect human health, and in fact, wind energy is broadly recognised to be one of the safest forms of electricity generation available today.”

Last year, the American Wind Energy Association, Australia’s Clean Energy Council, the Canadian Wind Energy Association, the European Wind Energy Association, the Global Wind Energy Council and Renewable UK said:

“As a responsible industry that has been delivering clean electricity for more than 30 years, we collectively continue to engage with experts in science, medicine and occupational and environmental health to monitor ongoing credible research in the area of wind turbines and human health…the balance of scientific evidence and human experience to date clearly concludes that wind turbines are not harmful to humans.”

The CSS does also call for studies into the health effects of all types of electricity production in Belgium. Recently the EWEA blog reported that coal-fired power stations cost the European Union up to €42.8 billion a year in associated health costs, find out more here.

Rising energy dependency endangers Europe’s economy

Posted by ewea on 23/05/13


The issue of energy may have been overshadowed by that of tax at yesterday’s EU summit of Heads of State in Brussels, but its growing importance and impact on Europe’s economy is one that cannot be ignored.

As the Financial Times reported on Tuesday, Europeans are paying a lot for their energy – prices are 37% higher than those in the US and 20% higher than those in Japan. Why? Largely because we import an incredibly high share of expensive fossil fuels.

What’s worse is that this dependence – and hence impact on prices – is growing. Herman van Rompuy, President of the European Council, has said that by 2035 over 80% of our energy will be imported, posing a threat to Europe’s competitiveness and endangering its economy.

Taking a look at the evolution of fossil fuel prices over the last three years shows how strong this threat is – the EU’s import bill has gone up by €200 billion due to increasing fuel prices during that time, and last year the EU paid €406 billion for oil and gas imports – 3.2% of its GDP or €1.1 billion a day.

But there is a way out. Europe is at the cutting edge of renewable energy technology and a world leader in wind energy. Wind energy is already meeting 7% of the EU’s electricity demand and its potential is enormous. The European Commission itself says that wind power could meet 32-49% of our electricity demand by 2050.

“Our continent is buffeted by a resource worth renewable gold – the wind, and is currently a world-leader in wind energy technology. We must transform our energy system and reduce our expensive and polluting energy dependence. Wind power is one of the best answers to this necessary transformation”, Thomas Becker, EWEA CEO, said reacting to the Summit conclusions.

It will take a push to get there: we need political motivation in the form of support for the industry and targets for growth, and we need a Europe-wide electricity market and infrastructure system to introduce competition, bring down prices and deliver renewable energy from where it is produced to where it is consumed.

Meanwhile research and development in wind power must be supported to bring down the costs of the technology offshore and constantly improve the long-established and already competitive with conventional fuels onshore technology.

EU leaders did agree that something needs to be done to combat rising energy prices. The issue of shale gas is on people’s minds, but as the Financial Times pointed out, extraction may be much more complicated in Europe than it has been in the US, and there are large question marks over the environmental damage fracking could cause.

As van Rompuy said, there is “huge potential [for renewable energy]…and we should take full advantage of it, especially now that these technologies are becoming more and more mature.”

MEPs back 2030 renewable energy target

As EU leaders fail to come up with concrete support for a healthy energy future in Europe, at least MEPs are supporting strong action. On Tuesday, the European Parliament renewed its commitment to wind power and other renewable energies by supporting a binding renewable energy target for 2030.

In the text adopted Tuesday, the Parliament said it agrees with the European Commission that renewable energy will help reduce Europe’s dependence on conventional energy.

“Targets and milestones should be set for the period to 2050 in order to ensure that RES have a credible future in the EU,” the text says, adding all scenarios presented by the Commission in its Energy Roadmap 2050 assume a share of at least 30% renewables in the EU’s energy mix in 2030.

The text also says that the EU should endeavour to achieve an even higher share, and calls on the Commission to propose a mandatory EU-wide renewable energy target for 2030. EurActiv says a Communication on 2030 targets is expected by the end of the year.

Meanwhile, an EWEA blog posting last week noted that French and German ministers have called for 2030 renewable energy targets, highlighting the importance of renewables in transforming the European economy, improving energy security and reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

The Irish Ambassador to the European Union also said Ireland “would be very keen to have 2030 targets.”

Additional reporting by Chris Rose

A hat-trick is the goal in the football and energy fields

Posted by ewea on 23/04/13

Football fans know the value of a hat-trick – the triumvirate of goals that prove success for any striker. Though difficult to achieve, the hat-trick is worth striving for.

The European Renewable Energy Council (EREC) also wants to score a hat-trick. Their new publication proposes three targets to drive EU energy policy after 2020: renewable energy, greenhouse gas emissions and energy efficiency.

“This would yield more benefits for European citizens and industries than a one-legged policy” based on a greenhouse gas only approach, say EREC.

“The message is simple: if you want to lower costs, create jobs, replace fossil fuel imports and drive innovation, competitiveness and investment, then a hat-trick of climate and energy goals works best”, said Rainer Hinrich-Rahlwes, President of EREC.

EREC are talking about 2030 targets now, as the current EU plans only go as far as 2020 – less than a decade away, which in terms of planning infrastructure for the energy business is the blink of an eye. A 2030 target is a vital signal for investors, as it decreases uncertainty which in turn reduces risk, and therefore cost. It would also ensure that the net growth in GDP that the EU currently gains from renewable energy would continue. In addition, a 2030 target would decrease the need for support mechanisms, reduce the costs of decarbonisation, allow Europe to maintain its “first mover advantage” in renewable technology, replace fossil fuels imports, create jobs and create a cleaner environment.

“The successful economies of the next decades will be those which decrease resource use and greenhouse gas emissions while creating new businesses through technology leadership, technology deployment and increasing employment the way renewable technologies do” said Hinrich-Rahlwes.

The EU does not yet have 2030 targets, but the European Commission’s recent Green Paper on a “2030 framework for climate and energy policies” presents 2030 targets as a key policy option. The EU does have the European Commission’s Energy Roadmap 2050, which identifies renewable energy, energy efficiency and infrastructure as “no regrets options”, meaning that in any given scenario they are critical for future decarbonisation.

The European Parliament and the Energy and Climate Action Commissioners support 2030 targets, however there is disagreement in the European Council – made up of ministers and representatives from national governments in the EU. EWEA has urged the Council to join the Parliament and Commissioners in agreeing to a 2030 renewable energy target alongside a carbon cutting target. (See EWEA Press Release EU Commission’s 2030 energy policy needs binding renewables target).

Regrets are certainly what the EU will have if it has to send representatives to the next international climate negotiations without a 2030 target. In typical understatement, Josche Muth of EREC described the job of negotiating in Paris in 2015 without new emissions targets as “hard”. Targets are concrete examples of European commitment to reducing emissions, and the strongest hand to play when convincing others that we are taking renewable energy, the climate and our citizens’ health and wealth seriously.

Read the EREC report Hat-trick 2030 – An integrated climate and energy framework


Fossil fuel power sources cost more than renewables in Germany

Posted by ewea on 09/04/13

By Zoë Casey

If all the costs of fossil fuel power generation were detailed in German power bills they would exceed the costs of renewable energy “by a wide margin”, a study by Greenpeace Energy Germany and the German Wind Energy Association (BWE) says.

Currently German power bills clearly outline the cost of the EEG – the support that is channelled to renewable energy and charged to the consumer as a levy – but the costs of conventional fuels are hidden. “State incentives for nuclear and coal are sometimes part of rules that increase the price of power and sometimes part of government budgets. In both cases consumers cannot directly see the full cost in their power bills,” the report says.

In 2012 the EEG levy cost the consumer €c3.59 per KWh, while the report estimates that if there were a similar levy for fossil fuels it would cost €c10.2 per KWh – almost three times as high as the EEG.

The news comes as Germany enters a critical period of debate on the cost of its stepped-up “Energiewende” – or energy transition away from nuclear and fossil fuels towards renewables following a decision taken by the German government and Chancellor Angela Merkel in May 2011. On 1 January, the EEG – which effectively pays for Germany’s energy transition – was raised to €c5.3, a move which prompted German Environment Minister Peter Altmaier to announce in late January a two-year freeze on the EEG and a cap on raises after that.

While the final outcome of the debate is still to come, it is worth bearing in mind that not only are some fossil fuel and nuclear costs are hidden in power bills, but that fossil fuels and nuclear have been subsidised for decades at a cost of many more billions than subsidies to renewables. Moreover, the societal and environmental costs of fossil fuels and nuclear are high and will remain high.

In figures, the report highlights that the German government has paid a lot more to conventional fuels compared to renewables in direct and indirect energy subsidies between 1970 and 2012. While hard coal-fired electricity generation received a total of €177 billion in financial support, lignite received €65 billion, and nuclear received €187 billion. All renewables, meanwhile, received €54 billion over the same period, the report said.

The study then looks at the additional costs to society and the environment of fossil fuels and nuclear compared to renewables – which are only included to a minor extent in power bills. “The resulting price per of a kilowatt-hour of wind power for society in 2012 is €c8.1…in contrast, the total cost of power from lignite and hard coal add up to €c15.6 and €c14.8 respectively, with nuclear reaching at least €c16.4 per KWh,” the report says.


Wind powers over 10% of UK electricity needs

Posted by ewea on 27/03/13

Wind power generated enough electricity to power four out of 10 UK homes last week – and that during a freezing March day and at a time when gas prices were at a seven year high.

From 9.30pm last Thursday night for the rest of the night and day, wind power generated 5 GW of electricity consistently over the 24 hour period, meeting over 10% of the country’s electricity needs.

Last week UK gas prices reached a seven-year-high after a pipeline connecting the UK and Belgium was shut down due to a technical fault.

“What this shows is that wind is a stable and reliable source of power generation on the scale we need, when we need it most,” Maria McCaffery, Chief Executive of industry body RenewableUK, said. The news on gas “serves as a timely reminder of the vulnerability of supply and the price volatility of imported fossil fuels,” she added.

While the UK’s recent record is impressive it falls behind countries like Spain – in April last year Spain reached a new wind power record by producing 317 GW hours of electricity, covering 61% of the country’s electricity demand.

Meanwhile in Denmark, wind power has met nearly all of the country’s electricity needs. Copenhagen Capacity reported that wind produced 3,987 MW of power one day in March this year – just 800 MW short of Danish electricity demand.