The EU said: “By becoming climate neutral, the EU will be the first continent to achieve a net emissions balance of zero. Our ambitious goals will be a model for others.
In an effort to help its member states reach their goal of carbon neutrality by the middle of this century – and arguably make the goal more achievable – the EU has set what it describes as an intermediate step: reduce emissions by 55% from 1990 levels by the end of this decade.
The “Fit for 55” package announced earlier this year is the biggest legislative overhaul of EU climate policy ever. The program includes five entirely new laws and eight revisions of existing laws.
As part of the proposals, the Renewable Energy Directive increased the amount of energy from renewable sources from 32% to 40% by 2030. It also clearly defines what energy can be considered “renewable”.
“It’s a very good package of where we are, as an industry,” says Viktoriya Kerelska, advocacy and messaging manager at WindEurope, the industry body.
Ambitious and achievable goals
There is no doubt that the goals are ambitious, but they are achievable. Currently, the picture across the EU is positive; there is 197 GW of installed capacity, growing on average by 15 GW per year over the next five years.
While the first half of 2020 has been extraordinary thanks to the pandemic, wind farms across Europe provided 17% of total energy demand, according to WindEurope. During the same period, wind farms across Europe accounted for 30% and 75% of global onshore and offshore wind capacity, respectively.
Although Europe is leading the way in wind power, the EU needs to more than double its annual installations to 30 GW per year to achieve the Fit for 55 goals.
Welcoming the ambitions for 2030 and the intention to achieve carbon neutrality by the middle of this century, Kerelska says: years, will indeed be with renewables.
She believes the package addresses some of the issues that had not yet been addressed, including spurring and accelerating the energy transition across Europe, not only in the electricity sector but in almost all areas. aspects of daily life – transport and industry and domestic energy efficiency. It also provides clarity on future volumes, giving investors certainty that may not always have been there.
Improve authorization procedures
However, Kerelska and the industry as a whole are being cautious. In a statement released just after the Fit for 55 announcement, the industry body’s CEO Giles Dickson said: “The Commission wants wind to account for half of Europe’s electricity by 2050 and wants more than twice as much wind capacity in 2030 as it does today.
“It’s perfectly feasible from a technological and financial standpoint. But this requires a major improvement in the authorization procedures for new wind farms across Europe. “
WindEurope called on the EU to play its role and support Member States in the development of best practices. Kerelska says, “The most critical thing is whether we would be able to clear all the projects we need on time?
She adds that this current bottleneck across the EU is a critical factor that must be addressed if the sector is to meet the 30 GW per year target.
What causes authorization delays?
Kerelska believes the problem is twofold: the first is increasing complexity, with developers being required to provide increasing justifications – often due to greater environmental protection; second, it’s as easy as the workforce.
She says licensing authorities often lack the capacity to complete reviews in a timely manner, resulting in significant delays: applications – unfortunately we are not able to enable necessary projects on time.
This is where WindEurope thinks the EU can help. Contrary to what some might suggest, there is no regulatory drift towards block-wide requirements, which is neither possible nor necessary, Kerelska explains. Rather, it is about good practices and knowledge sharing.
Kerelska says Germany is a good example as it drew up and published an 18-point plan a few years ago to tackle authorization delays. A strategy which, according to her, is already bearing fruit, with more than 1 GW of permits granted in Germany in the first quarter of 2021.
Slow authorization presents other challenges for developers as well. Their permit applications are judged on proposals and technologies that would then be uncompetitive or inappropriate.
Kerelska says: “We have seen in some cases in Italy, France and Germany that had the most difficulty in obtaining permits, that if your permit takes more than five years to process, that leaves you with technology in your area. permit that is out of date. These delays could force developers to apply for another permit with a new wind turbine. Wind power technology is developing a lot during this period.
She says a common set of best practice standards would help facilitate a smoother authorization process, adding that it is here that the European Commission could play an important role in bringing together all best practices from across the bloc. and sharing them.
This could take the form of a guidance document that ultimately further supports the Fit for 55 package and its goals. She urges hastily, however, stating that this must happen faster if the problems we currently face are to be addressed.
Changing the supply chain
However, there are positive points that can be drawn from the current situation in the EU and its need to improve licensing. In addition to new investment and job creation, Dickson said the Fit for 55 package announced when it was welcomed in July, the push to increase wind capacity in Europe will have indirect consequences.
Kerelska says that in addition to the infrastructure investments that will be required in the sector – grid connections, offshore to onshore connections and more advanced turbines – the industry’s supply chains will also have to evolve: “We are talking about bigger , heavier wind turbines take up much more space in European ports, requiring larger cranes and new generation installation vessels.
Speaking about the logistics of increasing capacity, especially offshore for example, she says: “The development of offshore wind is an opportunity for the European maritime industry, because the investment that will go into the supply chain. supply will contribute to jobs and growth and will play an important role in the development of Europe. recovery.”
The EU and the enlarged Europe have a long way to go to achieve carbon neutrality on time. There has already been a lot of good work and the energy transition is well underway. The Fit for 55 package is an essential tool, not only for the wind, but also for incentives and ambitions in a multitude of areas of our daily life.
The development of wind power will provide opportunities for the European economy, but the need to simplify permit approvals remains a major challenge. As the continent moves towards 2050, there will undoubtedly be other challenges, and even opposition from some. But if there was still a need to focus minds and remind everyone of the importance of a transition to renewable energies, this unprecedented summer is surely this one.