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Climate Action 2010-2011

Energy and Mitigation

Energy and Mitigation Europe has an established wind power sector which is already helping to fight climate change. Europe has an established wind power sector which is already helping to fight climate change: over the course of 2009, wind energy meant avoided emissions of more than 100 million tonnes of CO 2 . By 2012, wind will avoid the emission of 146 million tonnes of CO 2 per year, rising to 333 million tonnes by 2020. While we are heading in the right direction, there is no hiding from the fact that last year, at the UN COP15 summit in Copenhagen, we failed to seal a groundbreaking and ultimately planet-saving deal. I was disappointed that the EU’s targets and its offer to increase its carbon cutting target to 30 per cent if other countries signed up to carbon reduction moves failed to spur other nations into action. Even without the rest of the world on board, Europe should strive for a 40 per cent carbon reduction target compared to 1990 levels. At least three-quarters of these cuts should be made within Europe and not offset in countries outside of the EU. Currently there is much talk at the highest echelons of political power about deeper cuts but we are yet to see any concrete action. Wind power has already yielded massive carbon savings Over the last 10 years, the biggest transition in the history of modern wind power has taken place: it has been transformed from a minor electricity source to a mainstream one. Today, in some EU countries, wind meets a substantial proportion of national electricity needs, with Denmark taking the lead with over 20 per cent (IEA figures for 2008). In Portugal, wind power meets 15 per cent of the national electricity demand, in Spain, 14.4 per cent and in Ireland wind power meets 10.5 per cent, according to the latest International Energy Agency (IEA) figures for 2009. © Creative commons/flickr/Snap Shock For the EU as a whole, wind currently meets five per cent of the electricity demand, and we are looking to boost that to 14-17 per cent by 2020 and to 50 per cent by 2050. One of the most frustrating elements of the global resistance to take action on climate change is that we have a mature and proven technology available that will contribute massively to cutting carbon, and is already doing so in many countries around the world. Europe is the pioneer and world leader of the modern wind power industry, and China, India, Japan, South Korea and the US are also significantly building up their wind power sectors. But, even in Europe, we are still too far away from a renewable energy economy that really would help protect the planet from climate change. Looking back over the last decade, it is clear that wind power is the technology that has easily contributed the most to carbon reductions in the power sector. The world installed more new wind power capacity last year (37.5 GW) than it installed new nuclear capacity in the last decade (28 GW). In Europe, wind power has been the leading power-generating technology for new installations for the past two years. Last year, some 39 per cent of all new capacity installed was wind power, followed by gas (26 per cent), and solar photovoltaics (17 per cent). In total, 62 per cent of all new capacity was renewable while, during the same year, Europe decommissioned more coal and nuclear capacity than it installed. None of the other so-called ‘low carbon’ technologies could achieve growth rates as seen in the wind sector. While both carbon capture and storage (CCS) and nuclear are much talked about, it is important to note that no CCS plant has ever been built, and it takes more than a decade to build a new nuclear energy reactor. Neither CCS nor nuclear are solutions to climate change feasible within the 2020 timeframe in which our current targets are set. Wind power is needed now With 2020 just 10 years away – the year by which Europe should have achieved its 20 per cent renewable energy target – we need to act now with technologies that have been proven to work. In a recent publication, EU energy trends to 2030, the European Commission says that it expects 333 GW of new electricity generating capacity to be installed in the EU between 2011 and 2020, of which wind could account for 136 GW – or 41 per cent of all new installations. The publication states that wind energy will produce 14 per cent of the EU’s electricity by 2020 – almost treble current levels. The Commission’s expectations are in line with the current reality and industry expectations: Wind energy capacity will reach 222 GW in 2020, the Commission says, while the EWEA’s target for the same year is a small amount ahead at 230 GW, which will produce 14-17 per cent of the EU’s electricity depending on total demand. These statistics are proof that wind power is already achieving and can achieve more. It is a real and green alternative to fossil fuels and, crucially, it can be deployed and begin reducing CO 2 emissions immediately. | 50 | www.climateactionprogramme.org

Energy and Mitigation Europe-wide electricity grid In the coming years, Europe’s first priority for the renewable energy sector is a pan-European electricity grid that interconnects countries and offshore wind farms, bringing vast amounts of green electricity online. While the offshore wind energy industry is still in its infancy relative to its onshore sister, EWEA foresees that the 2020-2030 period will see a significant growth in offshore wind energy. This requires a substantial shift from the national structures in place today to a truly European model. By 2050 in Europe, wind power will cover around 50 per cent of the market for power, pushing the more expensive and carbon-price exposed fossil fuel technologies out of the market. At the same time, an integrated and fair European power market is vital for the development of all renewables. The EU’s recently agreed ‘third liberalisation package’ is working towards unbundling the production and transmission assets of all electricity companies but this policy is yet to be rolled out across Europe. Such a move would introduce competition and create a level playing field in the European electricity market. Not only will the environment reap the benefits with more green electricity online, but prices for consumers will fall as wind power pushes more expensive technologies out of the market thanks to its low marginal cost, Europe’s energy security will be assured and thousands of jobs will be created. Further measures, such as reduced gate-closure times – allowing wind power producers to give production forecasts as close to real time as possible, and an intelligently managed smart grid using demand-side management and storage capacities, should also be put in place. Looking ahead to 2050 Last year the G8 agreed to cut carbon emissions by 80 per cent on a global scale by 2050. While that seems like a long way off, we must take the right decisions today that will make that target possible. If we are to take the 80 per cent target seriously, the power sector cannot emit any CO 2 by that time. The remaining 20 per cent of emissions need to be allocated to other sectors, principally agriculture and transport – aviation in particular – where it is technically very difficult to achieve zero emissions. To make a 100 per cent cut in carbon emissions from the power sector possible, and in order to account for the 20-30 year lifespan of the average power plant, we must take the simple decision to stop building new carbon-emitting power stations by 2020. The most straightforward way to achieve this is by banning carbon emissions in the power sector from 2020 and to allow market forces to decide which technology will take precedence. By 2050 in Europe, wind power will cover around 50 per cent of the market for power, pushing the more expensive and carbon-price exposed fossil fuel technologies out of the market. However, many stakeholders are pushing for a combination of renewable energy, nuclear energy and CCS to achieve a zero-carbon power sector by 2050. They will argue that we need all technologies to decarbonise our power sector. This is not correct. Renewable energy can do it alone with a massive contribution from onshore and offshore wind energy. Professor Arthouros Zervos is President of the EWEA and President and CEO of Greece’s Public Power Corp, the country’s biggest company. With Zervos at the helm, Greece hopes to raise renewable energy output and has plans to generate 20 per cent of its energy from renewable sources by 2020, up from the current level of three per cent. Zervos has been committed to wind energy since the early 1980s and is a world expert in this field. He also represents the broad spectrum of renewable energies in his role as chairman of the European Renewable Energy Council (EREC). The EWEA is the voice of the wind industry, actively promoting the utilisation of wind power in Europe and worldwide. It has over 600 members from nearly 60 countries, including manufacturers with a combined 90 per cent share of the global wind power market, component suppliers, research institutes, national wind and renewables associations, developers, contractors, electricity providers, finance and insurance companies. This combined strength makes EWEA the world’s largest and most powerful wind energy network. EWEA coordinates international policy, communications, research and analysis and provides various services to support members’ requirements. The European Wind Energy Association Rue d’Arlon 80 1040 Brussels Belgium Tel: +32 2 213 1811 Email: ewea@ewea.org Website: www.ewea.org www.climateactionprogramme.org | 51 |